UK airlines will be forced to cancel hundred of flights this summer after London’s Gatwick airport announced plans to limit its operations because of continuing staff shortages plaguing the transport sector.
The UK’s second-busiest airport said on Friday it would cut the number of flights airlines can run to 825 per day in July and 850 in August, down from the 900 that Gatwick was planning to operate on peak days in August.
“Airlines will have to trim back their schedules somewhat,” said Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive.
He said the decision was down to a lack of staff at airlines and in particular ground handlers, subcontracted through third-party companies to perform tasks from check-in to baggage handling.
Wingate said the decision would allow airlines and passengers to plan in advance and cut out last-minute flight cancellations. “Everybody gets more certainty. They can at least have confidence in July and August that flights will operate,” Wingate said.
EasyJet, Gatwick’s biggest airline, will inevitably suffer the most disruption but said it supported the actions and “expected to be able to reaccommodate the majority of customers”.
Gatwick’s decision to scale back its operations represented more evidence that the aviation industry would not be able to carry as many passengers as promised this summer, following widespread labour shortages across the industry supply chain.
The move came after ministers told airports and airlines to get a grip on the short-notice cancellations that have hit thousands of flights this year, and to remove flights from their schedules in advance rather than hit passengers with on-the-day changes.
The Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority wrote to industry leaders this week to tell them “more needs to be done” to protect air travellers over the summer peak from the short-notice disruption seen in recent weeks.
About 13 departures out of a daily average of 400 were cancelled during the peak of the disruption at Gatwick earlier this month, a period that “tested” the airport’s resources, Wingate said.
Several other companies have already scaled back their planes for the summer, notably British Airways which took the decision to cut 10 per cent of its flight schedules all the way until October, to try to inject resilience into its stuttering operations.
EasyJet and Tui have also trimmed some flights, while Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Thursday announced a similar plan to limit its capacity this summer.