Airlines are told to fix delays and chaos so ‘unacceptable scenes’ at airports don’t drag into summer – as Which? blasts firms for ‘taking bookings for flights which may not run’
- The Civil Aviation Authority and the Government insisted bookable trips must be ‘deliverable’ by airlines
- Carriers were slammed for ‘blatantly flouting’ passenger rights in Parliament by consumer publication Which?
- Many take bookings for flights which may not be doable, blindsiding travellers when staff shortages kick in
- Tens of thousands of passengers have been caught up in months of travel chaos across the country’s airports
Airlines were told last night to ensure the recent ‘unacceptable scenes’ at British airports do not drag on into summer.
The regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the Government urged carriers to ensure planned flights are ‘deliverable’. The warning came as consumer group Which? said firms were ‘blatantly flouting’ passenger rights through practices such as taking bookings for flights which may not be able to run.
Tens of thousands of passengers have been affected by flight cancellations and long queues at airports in recent months, particularly during Easter and last month’s half-term school holiday.
Passengers at Bristol Airport endured delayed and cancelled flights plus long queues before 4am on Monday
Manchester Airport’s Terminal One was also crowded and understaffed early on Monday this week, with lines stretching far
A passenger tweeted this picture of cases piled on top of one another at Glasgow Airport, describing an ‘absolute shambles’
The disruption has been blamed on aviation firms struggling to recruit enough staff to cope with demand for travel after thousands of jobs were cut during the pandemic.
A joint letter from the CAA and Department for Transport said schedules should be ‘resilient for unplanned and inevitable operational challenges’. Air industry representatives told the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy committee that staff shortages may not be fixed by the summer.
It came as easyJet revealed it is taking four weeks longer than normal for new cabin crew recruits to receive security passes because of delays in references for people who have had so many different jobs in recent years.
The airline said it was taking about ten weeks pre-pandemic to get ID passes, but this was now at 14 weeks due to a requirement for potential staff to obtain references for all the jobs they have done in the past five years.
A passenger said this was the scene at Edinburgh, 5.25am on Tuesday, adding: ‘What a joke’
Bristol Airport (pictured, one passenger sleeps off a delay) was ranked in a recent study as among the very worst in the UK
Holidaymakers queue for check-in at the Jet2 area of Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two, Monday in the early hours
One passenger passing through Edinburgh Airport yesterday morning described ‘huge chaos’ at passport control
EasyJet chief operating officer Sophie Deckers told a hearing of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee today that the airline has 142 crew ready and trained to go online who do not have their ID passes.
Airlines charter planes to cope with staffing crisis
Airlines are being forced to charter planes to avoid cancelling holiday flights amid staffing shortages in the industry.
Tui, easyJet and British Airways are among those chartering aircraft at huge expense just so they can fulfil bookings.
It is understood the airlines have plenty of planes but not enough cabin crew to steward them.
Charter planes come with cabin crew, meaning it is preferable to lease these rather than cancel holidays. But it means flight times can change at the last minute, creating more chaos for travellers. It also means food and drink are not always available on the flights.
Thousands are getting emails from carriers saying their flight has been changed to a charter service.
EasyJet passengers flying from Gatwick to Kalamata in Greece were sent an email at the weekend, saying: ‘Please be advised that your flight is operated by SmartLynx Latvia on behalf of easyJet. Fresh sandwiches and hot food may not be available on your flight.’
Tui customers flying to Cyprus were told: ‘Your flights will now be operated by EuroAtlantic Airways on behalf of Tui Airways.’ The company described EuroAtlantic as an airline which ‘provides charter services and ad-hoc flights’.
British Airways has been chartering planes from Finland’s national carrier Finnair. Yesterday easyJet cancelled another 70 flights across Europe with 218 more delayed.
Wizz Air and Tui also cancelled dozens over the half-term holidays and British Airways has removed 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, from its schedules.
She said that the Luton-based company had planned for the increase in demand for travel after restrictions eased, but the ID processing has ‘caught us by surprise and it’s taken longer than we had ever planned or anticipated’.
Meanwhile new Home Office data made clear the scale of the passport backlog earlier this year, revealing that more than 35,000 people waited longer than ten weeks for their document in the first three months of 2022.
Also today, Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Four reopened for the first time in two years ahead of the peak summer season, with the first airline flying out being Qatar Airways to Doha – and 30 others are set to join soon.
As passengers again reported huge queues yesterday morning at Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast airports – and others tweeted pictures of chaos overnight at Gatwick and Bristol, easyJet made further flight cancellations.
It axed 16 flights at Gatwick today – eight departures to Almeria, Catania, Belfast, Preveza, Krakow, Madrid, Prague and Montpellier; and eight arrivals from Belfast, Montpellier, Milan, Catania, Preveza, Prague, Madrid and Krakow.
Sue Davies, head of consumer rights at consumer group Which?, said the cancellation of thousands of flights and long queues at airports in recent months were caused by the impact of staffing shortages being ‘underestimated’.
She said: ‘Both the industry and the Government need to shoulder the responsibility for the chaos that we’ve seen.’
Ms Davies acknowledged that the sector has been ‘particularly affected’ by the coronavirus pandemic, but stressed that consumers have ‘lost money and suffered huge emotional stress’.
She went on: ‘Particularly appallingly, we’ve been hearing from lots of people who have just had very little information about actually what’s happening on the ground.
‘The airlines and the Government were encouraging people to travel again, and we think they’ve just underestimated the capacity issues, and the shortages both within the airlines and the airport services, including baggage handlers.’
Ms Davies accused airlines of selling tickets when ‘they don’t know for sure that those flights are actually going to be able to go’.
She told the committee that passengers ‘haven’t really been given proper information about their rights’, adding: ‘We feel that obviously there’s some really specific issues at the moment in this case, but this is just symptomatic of some of the issues that we’ve seen in the industry for a long time.
‘There’s just blatant flouting of consumer rights and a failure to put passenger interests first.’
She also told MPs: ‘Both the industry and the Government need to shoulder the responsibility for the chaos that we’ve seen.’
Passengers queue outside Terminal One at Manchester Airport earlier this month amid half-term travel chaos
Holidaymakers flying from Bristol Airport encountered lengthy queues before 4am on Monday despite arriving early