Tens of thousands of travellers face getaway chaos as MORE Heathrow flights are axed: British Airways will bear brunt of cancellations as airlines at UK’s busiest airport announce next week which services will be cut

  • The UK’s busiest airport is expected to announce flight cancellations next week
  • British Airways, which has Terminal 5 as a hub, will be the most affected airline
  • The cancellations will come just as some schools break up for summer holidays 
  • It comes days after airport chiefs told airlines to cancel 30 flights at short notice

Tens of thousands of travellers going through the UK’s busiest airport could have their holiday plans disrupted next week as bosses prepare to tell airlines to cancel more flights.

Heathrow Airport is set to tell airlines they will have to move or cancel flights next week, just days after it cancelled 30 services at short notice to the fury of passengers, many of whom found out only after reaching the airport.

The cancellations came after bosses at the airport told airlines that staff in the terminals could not cope with the number of travellers who were expected during the morning peak.

And a further wave of cancellations is set to be announced by Friday, July 8, just as some schools break up for the summer holidays.

It comes after months of travel chaos at British airports, with travel hubs struggling to cope with the number of passengers trying to travel abroad after Covid restrictions were eased. 

There have been repeated complaints about long queues for security at airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, while a shortage of baggage handlers has led to long delays in people collecting their luggage. 

And there is set to be even more disruption later this month with hundreds of British Airways check-in staff expected to go on strike in a dispute of pay, although a date has not been set for this.

Heathrow Airport is expected to announce more flight cancellations next week as it rejigs its schedule. Pictured are passengers queuing at Terminal 2 at the airport on Friday

British Airways is expected to bear the brunt of the cancellations when they are announced. Pictured is a British Airways plane at Heathrow

Hundreds of bags of luggage arranged outside Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. A shortage of baggage workers has seen huge delays in some people receiving their luggage

It is expected that BA, which uses Terminal 5 at Heathrow as its hub and has more than 9,000 scheduled flights from the airport in July, will be the most affected airline by the upcoming cancellations, the Telegraph reports.

The paper reports the cancellations are being caused by an amnesty on take-off and landing slots. 

Airlines pay millions of pounds for these time slots and often run flights half empty to ensure they meet targets for the minimum number of flights in the slot – if they do not do this, they have to give it back.

The amnesty, which was announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) earlier this week, allows carriers to hand them back if they are not confident they can operate the service for the rest of the summer season, while retaining the slot for next year.

This is was a bid to ensure cancellations, like those seen on Thursday at Heathrow and earlier in the year during the Easter and half-term holidays, do not happen at the last minute and give passengers time to rebook. 

A spokesperson for British Airways told the PA news agency that the slot amnesty and consequent cancellations will ‘help us to provide the certainty our customers deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance’. 

They said that the airline ‘welcomes these new measures’, adding: ‘Slot alleviation allows airlines to temporarily reduce their schedules but still retain their slots for the next year to maintain networks and provide consumers with certainty and consistency. 

‘Allocating slots according to the (World Airport Slots Guide system) means airlines can offer the consistent services and efficient connections that consumers are looking for and protect jobs and create growth in the UK.’ 

Strikes in the UK and in Europe adding to the chaos

While airlines have struggled to deal with rising passenger numbers as travel opens up after the pandemic, strike action by workers in the UK and in Europe is also impacting flights.

Last month check-in staff at British Airways voted to go on strike, in a move that will cause more disruption for passengers flying from its hub at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. 

In Spain cabin crew working for Ryanair and easyJet are on strike this weekend in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions, with employees demanding the same working conditions as colleagues in France and Germany. 

This has caused Ryanair to cancel more than 50 flights to the popular European destination, with the USO union saying airports in Barcelona and Malaga will be worst affected. 

More than 400 crew members working for easyJet began nine days of industrial action lasting three weekends, also walked out yesterday.

There could be further woe on the horizon too, with Scandinavian carrier SAS facing the threat of strikes from 1,000 pilots amid ongoing wage talks.

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.’

On Thursday thousands of passengers at Heathrow were left furious as their flights were cancelled or delayed at the last minute. 

In a rare ‘schedule intervention’, the airport told its 20 biggest carriers they would have to move 30 flights from the morning peak.

It was a move that meant at least 5,000 travellers woke up to find their flights affected or even cancelled, with the airport saying it would not be able to cope with the high number of passengers in its terminals.

People at the airport took to social media to vent at what they saw as poor service at the London travel hub.

‘Total chaos at Heathrow this morning,’ one tweeted, ‘BA flights cancelled and zero customer service!’

Another branded Terminal 5 a ‘disgraceful shambles’, adding: ‘Left home at 3.30am, checked flight and cancelled on arrival.’

‘We are expecting higher passenger numbers in the morning peak than the airport currently has capacity to serve, and so to keep everyone safe we have asked airlines to remove 30 flights from the morning peak,’ a spokesman for the airport said on Thursday

‘We will work with airlines to get affected passengers rebooked on to other flights outside of the peak so that as many as possible can get away tomorrow, and we apologise for the impact this has on travel plans.’

Heathrow was first plunged into chaos in March as bosses struggled to hire enough workers amid widespread labour shortages in Britain.

And the situation risks worsening as British Airway staff are also threatening to strike, after unions rejected a 10 per cent pay offer in favour of walkouts as early as next month, potentially during the school holidays.

Passengers at Heathrow arrived at the airport on Thursday to find travel misery as flights were cancelled overnight. Pictured are two passengers waiting with their luggage at Terminal 5

A group of travellers sits down in Terminal 5 while waiting for their flight. At least 5,000 passengers woke up on Thursday to find their flights cancelled or delayed

The Civil Aviation Authority said: ‘Although most airlines will book you on to another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner or other suitable modes of transport are available, then you may have the right to be booked on to that alternative transport instead.’ 

In response to the ongoing issues, the Government unveiled a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer in a bid to avoid a repeat of travel chaos seen at airports during the Easter and Jubilee holidays.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there is ‘no excuse for widespread disruption’ and holidaymakers ‘deserve certainty’.

The Government’s action plan includes a number of measures previously announced, such as encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule are ‘deliverable’, an amnesty on slot rules and permitting new aviation workers to begin training before passing security checks.

The Government’s 22-point plan to avoid airport chaos

The Government ha unveiled a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer.

The strategy is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the chaos seen at UK airports during the Easter and Jubilee holidays.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there is ‘no excuse for widespread disruption’ and holidaymakers ‘deserve certainty’.

Tens of thousands of passengers have suffered flight cancellations and huge queues at airports in recent months.

Demand for travel will surge again as schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland break up for summer this week, while the academic year for those in England and Wales ends in around three weeks.

The Government’s action plan includes a number of measures previously announced, such as encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule are ‘deliverable’, an amnesty on slot rules and permitting new aviation workers to begin training before passing security checks.

A new passenger charter will be published in the coming weeks, providing passengers with a ‘one-stop guide’ informing them of their rights and what they can expect from airports and airlines when flying.

Announcing the plan in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Shapps said: ‘We appreciate the airports are busy as they recover, but the very last thing we want to see repeated are the scenes that we saw at Easter and half term.

‘So, let me stress, there is absolutely no excuse for further widespread disruption.

‘It’s now more than 100 days since we announced easing of travel restrictions, but to further support the industry as it prepares for the summer, today I’m announcing a 22-point plan with a written ministerial statement to this House to help recruit, retain staff, improve resilience, so that passenger disruption this summer is minimised.

‘And to make sure that if delays do unfortunately occur, travellers get properly compensated.’

However, Labour’s shadow transport minister Mike Kane accused Mr Shapps of being ‘missing in action’ when it comes to aviation.

Mr Kane said: ‘He is missing in action when it comes to aviation. Now, he has mentioned the chaos between Easter and the Jubilee weekend. He did not hold one meeting with aviation bosses during that time.

‘Now EasyJet have announced among others that they could cancel 10,000 flights in the next three months.

‘He needs to step up to the plate, he needs to go to the Prime Minister, he needs to knock on the door, and he needs to clean up the mess.’

Labour peer Lord Woodley, former joint-general secretary of Unite the union, said BA needs to reverse a pandemic pay cut to sort the ongoing airport delays.

He said: ‘The recent airport delays are undoubtedly as a direct result of the opportunism employed by BA slashing jobs, pay and conditions during the pandemic.

‘And now, unfortunately, we can all see that the chickens are indeed coming home to roost, with many airlines too slow to rehire and (restore) wages that were stolen from staff under the cover of Covid.

‘However, I am pleased to tell the House that thanks to my union Unite members, members working for CAE cabin crew have now secured an 18% pay rise, yes an 18% pay rise and a £1,200 summer bonus.’

It was announced that 150 Heathrow-based cabin crew employed by CAE Crewing Service had secured an 18% pay rise, reversing its pandemic cut and even improving on its pre-pandemic rate.

Source: Read Full Article