UK travel misery as more than 1,000 flights axed after Covid spike

Brits are being warned to expect more flight disruption due to staff shortages

Published

Airline passengers are being warned to expect flight cancellations caused by staff shortages to continue.

More than 1,000 UK flights have been axed in recent days due to crews being off sick amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

Industry experts also said airlines and airports are struggling because of the number of job cuts made during the pandemic.

Aviation data firm Cirium said 1,143 UK flights were cancelled last week, compared with just 197 during the same period in 2019.

The vast majority of last week’s cancellations were by easyJet and British Airways.

The rate of staff absences at easyJet is around double normal levels.

Flight chaos
Flight chaos
Commuters waiting for their flight
Commuters waiting for their flight

Some 60 of its flights scheduled for Tuesday were cancelled.

A spokeswoman for the airline said: “EasyJet will operate the vast majority of its 1,525 flights today with a small proportion cancelled in advance to give customers the ability to rebook on to alternative flights.

“We are sorry for any inconvenience for affected customers.”

After cancelling 62 flights due to operate on Monday, the Luton-based carrier warned it expects to make “similar levels of pre-emptive cancellations over the coming days, due to the ongoing high level of sickness”.

British Airways announced last month that it had reduced its schedule until the end of May due to rising Covid-19 cases.

It cancelled at least 98 flights to or from Heathrow on Tuesday.

That figure includes routes suspended for several months because of the pandemic, such as those featuring some Asian destinations.

Passengers at Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham airports have also reported long queues in recent days.

The disruption is affecting many families heading abroad for the school Easter holiday, which is the first since the UK’s coronavirus restrictions for international travellers were dropped.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “This is a staggering level of flight cancellations caused by a cocktail of not having enough staff in place and Covid-induced staff shortages.

“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.”

Aviation consultant John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, told the PA news agency last week that British Airways has “staff shortage issues coming out of the pandemic, and I know definitely that’s something which is going to be more widespread with airlines because of the number of people who were let go”.

Analysis by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council published in December 2021 warned that one in eight UK travel and tourism jobs would be unfilled entering this year, with 205,000 vacant roles.

It claimed staff shortages could have an “enormous impact” on the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.