Travel delays latest: British Airways and EasyJet cancel more flights as aviation bosses slammed over holiday chaos

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·25-min read
Travel delays latest: British Airways and EasyJet cancel more flights as aviation bosses slammed over holiday chaos
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British Airways has announced the cancelation of at least 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow on Wednesday as airlines struggle to cope with soaring half-term holiday demand.

The airline says passengers were given advance notice. Meanwhile EasyJet has cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.

It comes after as a Cabinet minister slammed aviation bosses for the chaos at airports in Britain stressing they were warned months ago they needed to recruit more staff.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab accused airline chiefs of a “lack of preparation” for the upsurge in people who have booked foreign holidays.

Tens of thousands of families have had flights cancelled or delayed in recent days and there are fears the problems will get worse in the summer months.

Mr Raab told Sky News: “There has clearly been a lack of preparation for that surge back of demand of holidaymakers.

“Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been talking to the industry for months now, saying that this would come and they need to make sure you have got your recruitment in place.

“I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment that they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.”

Transport Secretary warns airlines that chaos cannot be repeated over summer holiday

19:42 , John Dunne

The aviation industry must “do their bit” to resolve problems which have led to chaotic scenes at airports across the country, the Transport Secretary has told travel bosses.

Grant Shapps said while he understands there have been “resourcing strains on the aviation sector”, that is no excuse for poor planning and overbooking flights.

He described scenes at airports with lengthy queues and flight cancellations as “heart-breaking” as some holidaymakers had hoped to take their first trips abroad after the pandemic.

More than 150 UK flights were cancelled on Wednesday – the eve of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Shapps and aviation minister Robert Courts led what the Department for Transport described as a “productive meeting” with senior leaders from the aviation industry including airports, airlines and ground handling companies.

Following the meeting, Mr Shapps warned that there cannot be a repeat of such disruption over the summer.

He said: “We’re grateful to those airlines and operators who have continued to deliver good services despite the current pressures and we recognise that not all operators have been affected in the same way.

“I also understand the resourcing strains on the aviation sector but it does not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service. The companies who have seen the most disruption need to learn from those who ran services smoothly.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely to make sure consumers don’t lose out from any further disruption.”

He said he and Mr Courts “have made the changes needed to allow the sector to prepare for summer, but now we need industry to do their bit”.

He added: “We have been crystal clear – run services properly and according to schedule or provide swift, appropriate compensation. We do not want to see a repeat of this over the summer – the first post-Covid summer season – and will be meeting again in the coming weeks to understand the progress that is being made.”

Transport minister Shapps seeking answers from airline bosses as 150 UK flights cancelled

16:34 , John Dunne

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and minister Robert Courts were due to meet aviation leaders on this afternoon to discuss the problems as 150 UK flights were cancelled today alone.

EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.

British Airways axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow, but the airline says passengers were given advance notice.

Mixed reports from Gatwick

15:51 , Josh Salisbury

While many passengers travelling from Gatwick have reported significant delays, others seem to have had smoother experiences.

One said on Twitter: “Amongst all the negative I wanted to say thank you! Small wait at baggage drop on Monday, nothing out of the ordinary and security was smooth, flight landed as scheduled and I’m tweeting from my sun lounger”.

Another said: “I got to Gatwick 3 hours early. Queue for vueling check-in was 35mins. Queue for security was less than 5mins. A lot easier than I expected.”

A third added: “Fair play - at Gatwick_Airport and checked in with the friendly TUIUK staff with no queues and no problems”.

19 million drivers to hit roads over Jubilee holiday

15:51 , John Dunne

An estimated 19 million drivers will hit the road at some point over the long Platinum Jubilee weekend, a new survey suggests.

Some 53% of respondents to an AA poll of 13,062 motorists said they will drive at some point between Thursday and Sunday.

They will face record fuel prices, with the average price of petrol reaching 174p per litre on Tuesday, while diesel climbed to 183p per litre.

AA president Edmund King said: “The Platinum Jubilee will not be just an extended bank holiday.

“The AA survey points to 57% of people in the UK celebrating the event in some way other than just watching it on the TV or choosing not to celebrate at all.

“In many ways, a family or local community-orientated celebration is perfect for marking the event.

“Away from the local street parties, some roads will be busy.

“The AA warns drivers to be prepared for some delays around supermarkets and other shopping centres.”

Heathrow Airport advise arriving at least three hours before flight

15:09 , Elly Blake

Union chiefs call for urgent talks with Sadiq Khan in bid to avert Tube strike

14:39 , Elly Blake

Union leaders are calling for urgent talks with London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a bid to avert a 24-hour Tube strike.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union are set to walk out on Monday, threatening travel chaos immediately after the Jubilee weekend.

The union is protesting over job cuts and a “looming threat” to pensions.

There’s no point in our union continuing to sit opposite management representatives who have neither the inclination nor the authority to negotiate a settlement, when the power lies with the Mayor

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are demanding a direct face to face meeting with mayor Sadiq Khan to sort this mess out.

“There’s no point in our union continuing to sit opposite management representatives who have neither the inclination nor the authority to negotiate a settlement, when the power lies with the Mayor.

“The mayor of London has tax-raising powers. Just four banks made a profit of £34bn last year and are set to pay out over £4bn in bonuses to London traders. A windfall tax on those profits would more than adequately fund London’s transport network.

“Mayor Khan must choose either the take on the Tory government and demand a just funding deal for Londoners or attack loyal Tube workers who keep the capital moving day in day out.”

Passengers vent their frustration over Gatwick travel chaos

14:07 , Elly Blake

Our reporter Esra Arahu is on the ground at Gatwick speaking to passengers about their experiences.

A group of four has told the Standard they were left stranded overnight at Gatwick airport, after being forced to wait four to five hours at baggage reclaim for their luggage.

The group, including a two-year-old child and a heavily pregnant woman, landed back in London late on Wednesday from Antalya in Turkey.

They only managed to leave the airport by noon on Thursday and said the wait had been really hard on them.

“The wait was torture, especially with a baby and a pregnancy.“The service was terrible,” one of the group said.

Meanwhile, another passenger, Joanna Sadec, 58, and her family arrived at the airport with hours to go before their 11:05 am flight.

They waited to find they had received a notification telling them that their flight was cancelled

Ms Sadec said: “Nobody was helpful. We were given a number to call but there was nobody there.

“They then sent us to a gate to collect our luggage but there was nobody there.

“The service was really poor and only one person tried to help us.”

She said that she is now being forced to take another flight from Luton on Friday.

Unite: Travel chaos is because thousands of jobs have been cut

13:15 , Elly Blake

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UK’s airports are in crisis because thousands of jobs have been slashed and working conditions attacked.

“Our money was handed over to firms without any strings attached. Literally hundreds of millions went to the aviation sector during the pandemic, and instead of bringing stability those firms have brought us chaos.

“They did not protect jobs, many just used public money to prop up their share price or to pay for ‘fire and rehire’ to hammer pay and conditions. That is why we are where we are.

“It’s time for public money to have a hard-wire link to jobs. No more handouts without responsibilities. Taxpayers do not pay firms to sack their workers and cut their pay and conditions.”

Calls for Army to save Jubilee weekend from travel chaos

13:11 , Josh Salisbury

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Army to be deployed to stop the “chaotic scenes at airports up and down the country”.

“Families' half-term getaways have been thrown into disarray and now they face the prospect of a long weekend spent sleeping in airports and sitting in traffic jams,” the party’s transport spokesperson Sarah Olney said.

"We need drastic action now to tackle this travel carnage and break the logjam.

"That's why drafting Britain's best and brightest logistics minds from the Army to get things moving again is a no-brainer.

"Conservative ministers need to get a grip on this chaos at the 11th hour to save the jubilee weekend. Empowering the Army to run point from a command centre would do just that."

Airlines UK: Industry didn’t know when Covid restrictions would be removed

13:00 , Elly Blake

Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the aviation industry did not know when restrictions would be completely removed or how much flying would be possible this summer.

It added that “the vast majority of the many tens of thousands of UK-departing flights a week” are operating as scheduled.

All remaining coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.

Labour accuses the Government of being ‘missing in action'

12:45 , Elly Blake

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the Government of being “missing in action”.

In a letter to Mr Shapps, she called for a series of measures such as accelerating security checks for new airport staff and working with the aviation sector to tackle “chronic low pay”.

She said: “Passengers and our world-class businesses are demanding action. It’s time for the Government to take their fingers out of their ears and take practical steps.”

All remaining coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.

Labour: ‘Govt should move heaven and earth to stop transport chaos'

12:44 , Josh Salisbury

Labour’s shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Wednesday “any government worth its salt would be moving heaven and earth to stop the misery and the chaos” unfolding at airports.

She said: “The Government was warned all the way through the pandemic that the loss of skilled staff was going to create problems.

“They need to show some leadership and take some ownership of this crisis - get around the table with management and with workers’ representatives in the travel industry in order to end the chaos.

“We need a proper post-Covid plan to get the industry back on its feet and get things moving again, including filling recruitment shortages that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.”

Speaking in Wakefield, Ms Nandy added: “When things go wrong, it’s the Government’s job to step up and try and fix it.”

Grant Shapps: Travel firms have ‘oversold flights'

12:30 , Elly Blake

The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines and airports repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the Covid-19 crisis as Government travel restrictions suppressed demand.

They are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed travel firms have “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver”.

He went on: “This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer.”

Mr Shapps has demanded a meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers to “find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays”.

Pictured: Departures at Gatwick South Terminal on Thursday

12:21 , Elly Blake

Gatwick South Terminal (PA)
Gatwick South Terminal (PA)
Gatwic South Terminal (PA)
Gatwic South Terminal (PA)

Cirium data shows 377 flights cancelled from UK airports in last week

11:43 , Elly Blake

Aviation data firm Cirium said 377 flights from UK airports were cancelled in the seven days up to and including Tuesday.

Gatwick has been the most affected, with 151 cancellations, followed by Manchester (41), Heathrow (36), Bristol (27) and Edinburgh (19).

Some 10,794 flights are scheduled to depart from UK airports between Thursday and Sunday.

Airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months, with the situation worsening this week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend.

Flight chaos continues on eve of Platinum Jubilee bank holiday

10:52 , Elly Blake

Holidaymakers face more chaos on the eve of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

More than 150 UK flights were cancelled on Wednesday and passengers who could travel were forced to wait in long queues at airports.

EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.

British Airways axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow, but the airline says passengers were given advance notice.

Tui Airways is continuing to cancel six daily flights at Manchester Airport, which represents a quarter of its schedule.

One easyJet passenger tweeted a photograph from Manchester Airport at 4am showing a long queue of people in a car park outside Terminal 1.

He described the situation as “carnage”, adding: “Took two hours 45 minutes to get through – most of that was bag drop. Now on the aircraft, but due to shortage of ground crew, there’s going to be another delay of approximately 50 minutes.”

Another easyJet passenger said they had to wait for two hours and 40 minutes to receive their luggage after landing at Gatwick Airport shortly before 3am.

He said this was “simply not good enough”.

Passenger travelling from Gatwick to Luton after flight ‘oversold’

10:41 , Elly Blake

One passenger has told reporter Esra Arahu that he has been separated from his flights after his flight was “oversold”.

William Lloyd, 29, was due to get the 7.40am flight to Murcia in Spain.

However, he was told he had to book a new flight and now has no choice but to travel from Gatwick to Luton, and will now touch down much later than his friends.

He told the Standard: “With the exception of [an EasyJet employee], the customer service has been absolutely poor.”

Mr Lloyd added that he had been on the phone to customer service for half an hour, with no success.

Some travel disruption continues at Gatwick Airport

10:27 , Elly Blake

Holidaymakers are reporting queues in some parts of Gatwick Airport.

However, others are praising the airport for their organisation and say the queues are not that long.

One uploaded a picture of a long queue for a food outlet, while others reported flight cancellations and delays to pick up baggage.

However, some passengers said they had relatively easy journeys through check-in and security.

One person wrote on Twitter: “For what it’s worth, flying from #Gatwick at 0910 this morning, arrived at 0645 or so and got through North terminal (easyjet) security within 30 minutes. No sign of any issues yet today. We’ll see about my flight...”

Another posted: “I made it from the @GatwickExpress and completely through security at @Gatwick_Airport South Terminal yesterday in literally 10 min flat. Record timing and it was very busy!”

TfL announces changes to some Tube stations over Platinum Jubilee weekend

10:14 , Elly Blake

Transport for London (TfL) has announced planned changes to station access for the Queen’s Jubilee events on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June for the following stations:

Charing Cross: closed from 15:00 on Saturday.

Westminster: interchange only from 10:00 on Sunday.

St James’s Park: closed from 15:00 on Saturday and from 13:00 on Sunday.

Hyde Park Corner: exit only from 16:00 until 21:00 on Saturday, closed from 21:00 on Saturday and exit only from 14:00 until 16:00 on Sunday, closed from 16:00 on Sunday.

However, TfL has said that most of its services will be running, with no planned closures in central London.

They are warning customers to be “please be aware that at times, we may need to use some short-term safety measures, such as queuing or changes to the way you enter or exit a station.

“Please follow the advice from station or event staff and follow signage.”

Queues at Stansted Airport

10:05 , Elly Blake

Pictures on social media show large queues at Stansted Airport as wait to clear through security.

One passenger, flying from Stansted said there was “total chaos” and recommended people arrive three hours early for their flight.

Another said that despite long queues to get to the front, security checks itself took “22 minutes”.

A third person wrote: “OK, well, the dreaded queues at Stansted are there... but they’re not as bad as they say. I didn’t have to wait for three hours, basically. Might be busier later.”

Raab says the Government wants to help airlines deal with recruitment issues

08:49 , Elly Blake

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has said he does not know if aviation bosses are looking to access tax records that would help them to recruit staff more quickly.

He told Sky News: “I don’t know the details of that. But I do know that we’ve made some changes on the regulatory front because we know that there’s a demand for recruitment and we want to help the airline industry deal with that.”

Holidaymaker flying from Manchester says delays ‘simply not good enough’

08:43 , Elly Blake

One easyJet passenger tweeted a photograph shortly after 4am from Manchester Airport showing a long queue of people in a car park outside Terminal 1.

He described the situation as “carnage”, adding: “Took two hours 45 minutes to get through – most of that was bag drop. Now on the aircraft, but due to shortage of ground crew, there’s going to be another delay of approximately 50 minutes.”

Another easyJet passenger said they had to wait for two hours and 40 minutes to receive their luggage after landing at Gatwick Airport shortly before 3am.

He said this was “simply not good enough”.

Travel disruption may partly be down to airlines ‘overbooking’ - Raab

08:32 , Elly Blake

Chaos at airports may be partly down to airlines “overbooking” the number of passenger on planes, a Cabinet minister said on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also accused aviation bosses of not properly responding to warnings given months ago that they needed to recruit more staff.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We provided £8 billion to the sector during the pandemic. There are regulatory changes that we made to make it easier to recruit.

“But at the same time the sector has got to respond to that pent-up demand that is coming back.

“The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has been talking for months with the sector about making sure that they have got the recruitment in place to deal with the resurgent demand for travel.”

He added: “We will work with the sector but it’s ultimately up to the aviation and the holiday sector to make sure that they have got the staff in place.

“If there are smart things we can do with the recruitment, then of course we want to work together with them.

“We want to facilitate those holidays. But ultimately, it’s up to those businesses to respond to their demand and frankly the advice has been there for months now from the Transport Secretary to deal with those recruitment issues.

“So fundamentally, the responsibility is on them to get their capacity in place to deal with their customers and consumers.

“There has been some questions about whether they have overbooked.

“We often find this with aviation, with airline bookings, they overbook and that is part of the economic model.

“They have got to address those issues. If there are smart and sensible and pragmatic things that the Government can do to support them, of course we will do it.

“But fundamentally this is for those businesses to step up and plan and deliver the things that we have been saying would come through as confidence in travel returns.”

BA cancels more than 120 short-haul flights at Heathrow

08:18 , Elly Blake

British Airways has cancelled at least 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow on Wednesday.

The airline says passengers were given advance notice.

EasyJet has cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.

A BA spokesperson said: “It’s been a challenging period for the entire industry and at British Airways we’re completely focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience.

“We took action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund.”

British Airways facing disruption over pay dispute

07:47 , Elly Blake

British Airways (BA) check-in staff at Heathrow airport will be balloted for strike action next month in a dispute over pay.

Unite union said on Monday it would ballot 500 staff at the UK’s busiest airport.

A vote in favour would result in disruption at the height of the summer peak.

Unite said BA management had refused to reverse a 10 per cent pay cut imposed during the pandemic, and that its members were “rightly furious and ready to take action”.

“A strike by our members will make an immediate impact on the service to customers, so I urge BA to get a grip and restore these workers’ pay immediately,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

Dominic Raab: There’s a bit of finger pointing going on

07:29 , Elly Blake

Justice secretary Dominic Raab has said there has "clearly been a lack of preparation" for the surge in demand of people wanting to travel.

He told Sky News that the transport secretary Grant Shapps had been "talking to the industry for months now, saying this will come".

"There's a bit of finger pointing going on at the moment," he said.

Mr Raab added that airline operators had not done the recruitment they should have done, ahead of the summer season.

However, he added the surge in demand was a sign of post-pandemic recovery, adding: "It's good news holidaymakers have the confidence to be taking these trips".

Getting around London this Platinum Jubilee weekend

07:04 , Elly Blake

TfL have confirmed all of their Tube and rail services will running as usual over the bank holiday weekend but some lines may be closed to cope with the huge numbers of people expected in the capital for major events including the BBC concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday night.

Plans in place already mean Charing Cross and St James’s Park station will be closed after 3pm on the day while Hyde Park station will be exit only after 4pm and is planned to close after 9pm.

St James’s Park station, which is just a short walk from the palace, will close from 1pm on Sunday while Westminster will be closed from 10am through travellers can still change between the Circle, District and Jubilee lines.

Revellers taking advantage of the special late licensing hours can use the Night Tube on the Central, Jubilee and Victoria lines on Friday and Saturday and the cancellation of planned strike action on the Friday means Green Park and Euston will be open though further industrial action may take place on Monday after the end of the four-day weekend.

TfL expects its buses to run as usual but Arriva is advising customers to check their routes while FirstGroup is running a Sunday service on Thursday and Friday.

It also warned that interchange at Bond Street, Kings Cross St Pancras and Green Park stations will be much busier than usual and particularly on Saturday night.

Services in general will be busier on Satu  and Sunday night though TfL are advising people to avoid driving in central London with many streets packed with partygoers and official events.

Some cycle routes are also likely to be closed or diverted so cyclists are warned it check their routes before setting off.

Londoners should check their journeys before travelling this weekend - TfL

06:54 , Elly Blake

Londoners have been warned to check their journeys before they travel.

Huge crowds are expected to descend on the capital for the four day Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

There will be road closures and some stations will close as well in a bid to manage the large numbers of people travelling through the city

Julie Dixon, TfL’s Interim Customer and Revenue Director, said: “There will be lots to see and do in the capital over this historic weekend and we expect the celebrations will be popular.

“To help people make the most of everything that’s happening, we’re planning to run a normal service with no planned works or closures, including services all weekend on the newly opened Elizabeth line.

“Services will be particularly busy on Saturday night and during the daytime on Sunday. Public transport, walking and cycling will be the best ways of getting around and we’d encourage people to check their journeys before they travel in case of any disruption, either on our website or by using the TfL Go app.”

Grant Shapps demands meeting with aviation bosses

06:53 , Elly Blake

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has demanded a meeting with aviation bosses to find out “what’s gone wrong” as travel chaos worsens across the country.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr Shapps said the Government had “done its part”, adding that airlines and ground handlers need to ensure there is no more disruption.

Mr Shapps referred to the £8 billion given to the aviation industry during the pandemic as well as legislation he introduced last month which allows new aviation recruits to begin training before passing security checks.

He said: “It’s been very distressing to see passengers facing yet more disruption at airports – having well-earned holidays cancelled and plans left in disarray.

“We’ve been clear that industry leaders need to tackle the issues we saw at Easter head-on.

Passengers queuing at airports (PA Wire)
Passengers queuing at airports (PA Wire)

“Although some steps have been taken, we are still not seeing the progress we need to.”

He said the Government “will be meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers again to find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays”.

He added that operators “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver” despite Government warnings.

“Government has done its part,” he said.

“It is now on airports, airlines and ground handlers to make sure everyone’s well-deserved holidays can go ahead free from the major disruption we’ve seen in recent days.”

Good morning

06:51 , Elly Blake

We will be bringing you all the latest on travel across London and the UK as travel chaos is expected to contine today.

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has demanded a meeting with aviation bosses to find out “what’s gone wrong” as travel chaos worsens across the country.

Airlines continued to axe flights on Tuesday with passengers forced to wait for hours at airports including Manchester, Heathrow, Gatwick and Bristol.

Heathrow passengers trying to board their flights claimed they had “never” seen queues as long as those on Tuesday morning.

Passengers have been hit by disruption for several months, with the situation worsening this week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period.

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