Covid staff shortages ground flights at Heathrow wrecking Christmas travel plans

·2-min read
People are reunited at Heathrow airport  (Handout)
People are reunited at Heathrow airport (Handout)

Travel chaos is set to ruin people’s plans to get home after Christmas as Omicron has an impact on airport staff.

Airlines blamed isolation rules and illness as flights were grounded during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

British Airways was forced to cancel 50 flights at Heathrow on Sunday, citing “operational constraints”.

A spokeswoman said these cancellations had been actioned previously and had been communicated to passengers ahead of time.

Worldwide more than 7,000 flights were cancelled over the Christmas weekend, with severe weather in US adding to travel woes.

Data recorded by the FlightAware aviation tracking website showed 33 flights leaving Heathrow were cancelled on Sunday.

And 29 flights due to arrive at the airport were cancelled.

To add to the carnage, Heathrow was cut off from the rail and Tube network on Christmas Day and Boxing Day due to Network Rail and Transport for London doing simultaneous work.

A BA spokesman told Mail Online: “We are sorry that we have had to cancel a number of flights due to operational constraints.

“Our teams are working extremely hard and we have upgraded later services to larger aircraft where possible to get customers to their destinations as quickly as possible.”

Gatwick said it had only had three out of 215 flights cancel on Sunday.

The festive period is one of the busiest times of the year outside summer for international travel from the UK.

Many people visit family overseas, enjoying a winter sun holiday or going skiing.

The number of people heading abroad is higher than last year but remains down on pre-pandemic levels.

Gatwick Airport said it expects to welcome nearly 750,000 passengers between December 18 and 31.

This is nearly seven times more than over the same period 12 months ago but less than half of what it saw before the virus crisis.

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