Holidaymakers are facing more travel disruption as airlines are reportedly preparing to announce a new wave of cancellations next week.
Britain’s busiest airport Heathrow has to tell officials which flights are no longer running by Friday – just as some schools begin breaking up for the summer holidays, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The upheaval comes in response to an amnesty announced last month that will allow airlines to cancel flights while still retaining take-off and landing slots next year.
Airlines buy slots to operate their schedules but can lose them to rivals if they fail to maintain their obligations to the airport and passengers by failing to fly.
Travellers have already been hit by months of cancellations, delays and missing baggage – with more disruption expected this weekend as Ryanair and EasyJet crew strike in Spain.
The UK government has reportedly ruled out drafting in the military to help at UK airports after Ireland put the army on standby to assist in case of further disruption at Dublin.
A government source told the Telegraph there were “no plans” for a request under the military aid to the civil authorities (MACA) scheme.
Meanwhile, the boss of Ryanair has claimed flying has become “too cheap” and warned fares will rise for the next five years.
Michael O’Leary told the Financial Times that high oil prices and environmental charges were expected to push the average Ryanair fare up from 40 euro (£35) to between 50-60 euro (£43-£52) over the medium term.
“I find it absurd every time that I fly to Stansted, the train journey into central London is more expensive than the air fare,” he told the newspaper.
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Staff shortages in ground handling, airports, and flight crew, have presented major challenges as the aviation sector struggles to move into the peak season after two years of coronavirus pandemic-related turbulence.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled across various airlines over recent weeks, as capacity fails to keep up with demand – a problem also being seen across Europe.
The Department for Transport has temporarily relaxed rules around airport slots to help airlines avoid last-minute cancellations due to staff shortages.
It said airlines will be given a short window, described as an “amnesty”, to hand back take-off and landing slots they are not confident they will be able to operate for the rest of the summer season.
It is hoped that being able to more freely adjust schedules will allow airlines to run only the flights they can fully staff, ending the reports of passengers arriving at the airport to find their flights cancelled at the last minute.
On Thursday, Heathrow asked airlines to remove 30 flights from the morning peak schedule, saying that it was expecting “higher passenger numbers than the airport currently has capacity to serve”.
Many passengers have also had luggage delayed or missing.
There is also the looming threat of industrial action, with hundreds of Heathrow-based check-in staff and ground handling agents voting last month for industrial action over pay.
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A spokesperson for British Airways said 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.”