LONDON (Reuters) -Britain on Tuesday said it had temporarily relaxed rules around airport slots to allow airlines to devise realistic flight schedules and avoid last minute cancellations in light of staff shortages.
A spate of flight cancellations has caused widespread disruption for holidaymakers and served as an ominous omen for the summer, with transport minister Grant Shapps telling airlines to stop selling flights they cannot deliver.
But the industry and politicians have pointed out that the government had demanded that airlines put on full flight schedules, previously saying that airlines had to fly 70% of their flight slots at airports or lose them.
On Tuesday, the government said it would give an "amnesty" on airport slot rules, and give airlines a short window to hand back take-off and landing slots for the rest of the summer season that they are not confident they will be able to operate.
"It’s crucial (people) don’t face disappointing last-minute cancellations and chaos at airports when the system can’t deliver. And I will do everything in my power to stop that," Shapps said.
"Today’s announcement aims to help airlines provide certainty to passengers and ensure the next few months are as smooth as possible."
The change is aimed at letting passengers find alternative routes ahead of time if their flight is unlikely to run, as the government aims to avoid the kind of last-minute cancellations seen over the Easter and half-term school holidays.
Airlines globally are facing staff-shortages after people left low-paid airport work during the pandemic and airlines struggle to scale up operations following years of restrictions.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by William James and Michael Holden)