EasyJet cuts flights at Gatwick as Heathrow pleads with airlines to reschedule services

·3-min read
EasyJet cuts flights at Gatwick as Heathrow pleads with airlines to reschedule services

EasyJet on Monday apologised for the disruption caused to thousands of passengers hit by recent cancellations and delays as it announced it was cutting back flights over the summer.

The budget airline said it was “consolidating a number of flights across affected airports” including Gatwick following the airport’s announcement last week that it was reducing the number of daily flights during July and August to cope with staff shortages.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “Delivering a safe and reliable operation for our customers in this challenging environment is EasyJet’s highest priority and we are sorry that for some customers we have not been able to deliver the service they have come to expect from us.

“Coupled with airport caps, we are taking pre-emptive actions to increase resilience over the balance of summer, including a range of further flight consolidations in the affected airports.

“We believe this is the right action for us to take so we can deliver for all of our customers over the peak summer period in this challenging environment.”

But he said he could not provide a figure for the number or proportion of flights that will be cancelled as “we need to work this through”. He said: “It would be misleading for me to give any numbers today because we simply don’t know. The overwhelming vast majority of people would not be affected by what we are announcing today.”

Travellers are braced for a summer of chaos as airports and airlines struggle to recruit staff after workforces shrank during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heathrow Airport on Monday said it was urging airlines to reschedule 10 per cent of their flights out of Terminals 2 and 3 following a problem with its baggage handling systems at the weekend.

Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “What we’re seeing here is the results of the airline industry having massively contracted during the pandemic and now it’s facing this surge of pent-up demand as things stand back up and it isn’t resourced and manned for that challenge.

“I think it is sensible that what we’re starting to see is some of the airports revising their schedule for the summer season ahead because frankly, we can’t have a repeat of the scenes that we’ve seen at some of our airports in recent weeks.”

Thousands of travellers were left stranded over the half-term holiday and Platinum Jubilee weekend as EasyJet and other operators including Wizz Air cancelled hundreds of flights.

Easyjet has since cancelled dozens of daily flights at Gatwick, including some with passengers on the plane. It said it wants to “build additional resilience” as the aviation sector across Europe experiences “operational issues”. These include air traffic control delays, staff shortages in ground handling and at airports, and increased times for identity checks of new recruits.

EasyJet expects its capacity between April and June to be 87 per cent of 2019 levels, rising to 90 per cent during the following three months.

The airline said it was taking the decision now to give passengers the chance to rebook on alternative flights.

Over the weekend travellers posted images of a baggage mountain at Heathrow after the handling system at Terminal 2 suffered a major malfunction.

Passengers have been warned it may take days before they are reunited with their bags.

A Heathrow spokesperson said it apologised “unreservedly” for the disruption passengers have faced.

The airport had resolved the handling system issue by Sunday night but asked operators in Terminals 2 and 3 to reschedule some flights on Monday.

The spokesperson said: “This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.”

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