Holidays under threat over airline staff shortages

Family summer holidays face a new threat after British Airways axed hundreds of flights up until September – with fears other airlines could follow suit.

BA slashed flights on some routes to the US and the Far East, affecting thousands of travellers after it had already cancelled more than 1,000 flights in little more than three weeks.

Routes affected have included from London to Berlin, Dublin, Geneva, Paris, Stockholm, Athens and Prague. The flagship carrier axed another 200-plus flights over yesterday and on Wednesday, affecting an estimated 20,000 passengers. 

BA boss Sean Doyle originally told staff in an internal message that flights would be cancelled until the end of next month, partly due to staff shortages. 

There are fears that other carriers could also be hit with issues after easyJet cancelled hundreds of flights over Easter. 

The transport chaos over Easter saw flights to destinations into Europe and the US cancelled by BA and easyJet as they were hit by Covid absences, lack of staff and a surge in demand for travel as restrictions were lifted.

Industry experts have also pointed the finger at security checks for struggling staff numbers, with vetting for new staff taking up to twice as long as the 14 weeks it is supposed to. 

At the World Travel and Tourism Council’s summit in Manila in the Philippines yesterday, Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency, suggested disruption could last many months.

‘Covid travel restrictions have brought about a destruction of talent through job losses,’ he said.

BA boss Sean Doyle’s future  is uncertain as the airline announced it was planning to cancel hundreds of flights between now and December during the busiest time of the year

The airline has already cancelled thousands of flights, causing misery to the travelling public

The airline has already cancelled thousands of flights, causing misery to the travelling public

More than 1,140 flights were grounded at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham during the Easter getaway– with EasyJet and British Airways both cutting 60 and 98 flights respectively in a single day. 

Yesterday, it emerged that BA is cancelling half of flights between Heathrow and Miami, reducing them to one each way a day from June 4 until September 7. 

BA said the cancelled daily flight to and from Miami would be picked up by American Airlines. 

In an email to customers the airline apologised and said: ‘We’ll do everything we can to get you where you need to be.’ 

BA has already halted flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo and yesterday it said there would be no flights to Hong Kong until September and to Tokyo until October.

It is not yet clear how many other BA flights will be axed over the summer. Passengers who have their flight cancelled are entitled to a full cash refund or the airline should book them on another flight with a take-off time as close to the cancelled flight as possible.

The airline slashed thousands of jobs during the pandemic.

Some easyJet and Ryanair customers have also taken to social media to report their flights being cancelled. 

One wrote: ‘Could @easyJet make it any more difficult to get in touch with them? The cancelled my flight there but won’t let me cancel the return flight back?’

A second said: ‘@easyJet AWFUL – can you please explain why my outbound flight to Cagliari on the 10/05/22 has been cancelled with less than a months notice? Would appreciate a response as this is the third tweet I have sent and have been ignored.’

While a third added: ‘ @Ryanair Hi I need a solution to the cancelation of my flight to Venice. Twice you have cancelled (22 and 23 of April) without a solution. We don’t have options now to go and we are costing all the extras expenses.’

Despite the social media furore, easyJet told MailOnline in a statement: ‘We are planning to operate our normal summer schedule which is on average around 1700 flights a day this summer.’

Discussing the reasons for the cancellations, Mr Charles told the Telegraph: ‘In the short-term you have got Covid [absence] which is becoming less of an issue, but in the longer term, there are still complications over recruiting enough staff.

‘BA is only recruiting staff who already have security passes.’

He also previously said: ‘Airlines are certainly seeing a high level of demand to fly, but are simply unable to cope with that demand due to a lack of resources. It’s a nightmare situation for airlines and airports at the moment.’

Martin Chalk, general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa, also told The Telegraph: ‘The chaos witnessed at British airports may well be repeated throughout the summer because airlines, laden with debt… have not yet rehired enough staff.’

The rise in bookings is overtaking the number of airline staff being hired, which is being further exacerbated by security checks.

An industry source further blamed the vetting process, saying it can take up to six months before someone is able to come in and do a job at an airport.

But a spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) contended the ‘aviation industry is responsible for resourcing at airports’, adding: ‘They manage their staff absences, although we want to see minimal disruption for passengers during the Easter period.

‘The requirement for Counter Terrorist Checks for aviation security staff is important for the protection of the travelling public and the Government continues to process these security clearances in a timely manner.’

BA boss Sean Doyle’s job is on the line over a series of blunders  

The future of BA boss Sean Doyle was thrown into doubt yesterday after the airline’s owners talked about sacking him because of a string of blunders.

Sources said the board of International Airlines Group (IAG) discussed the possibility at its most recent monthly meeting.

IAG directors are particularly concerned about a lack of investment in IT. Last month BA had its third computer meltdown this year and 1,000 flights were cancelled or delayed over one weekend. 

More than 1,000 have been cancelled since, partly because of staff shortages after it cut thousands of jobs in the pandemic. 

Passengers say that they have also been unable to get through to customer services or check in online. 

Others waited days to be sent luggage that could not be unloaded from planes.

IAG was asked twice if it denied discussing Mr Doyle’s future at a board meeting, but declined to comment. 

A statement said: ‘The IAG board and its CEO fully support Sean Doyle.’ 

BA was contacted for comment.