British Airways cancels even more summer flights
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This article has been updated.
British Airways has cancelled even more summer flights as the U.K.’s flagship airline attempts to get a handle on its current staffing woes.
Having already grounded or delayed thousands of flights this year due to IT gremlins and staffing issues, the carrier looks set to cancel hundreds more services over the next few months as it “slims down its programme” to “meet demand”.
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According to the Financial Times, BA staff were informed that the cancellations would extend until June during a video message from the airlines chief executive Sean Doyle. The proposed timeline is now a month longer than was previously announced by the airline.
U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps shone further light on the cancellations in Parliament this week when speaking at the Transport Committee, following face-to-face meetings with Doyle.
“BA is cancelling nearly 100 flights today in and out of Heathrow, so can you guarantee the British public are not going to face a summer of travel chaos, as they did at Easter?” he was asked by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw.
“You’ll be interested to know I had Sean Doyle into my office yesterday, to ask him exactly this question,” Shapps replied. “Obviously they’re a private company. He told me that they were proactively, in advance now, slimming down their programme in order to be able to meet the demand.”
Shapps added: “[Doyle] also explained that the problems were actually growing pains in lots of different directions — very, very quickly. So they are primarily OK with I think, for example, pilots, but those on the ground – [the] baggage handling side of things, for example, had been much harder in a very, very tight employment market, where thankfully we have getting on for full employment, they found quite difficult to do.”
Indeed, one of the biggest reasons for the chaos of course has been a chronic staffing crisis following Brexit and the pandemic. The hiring process to fill staffing holes has been inflamed by the lengthy vetting process necessary for airports to hire staff — something Shapps was also drawn on at the recent Transport Committee.
“I can’t, and the Committee wouldn’t expect me to, compromise in any way, shape or form with aviation security, but I have looked at the rules and have found an area where we can assist with bureaucracy, particularly with regard to new people coming into the industry and then need to be security checked.
“We can begin the training without exposing them to parts of the training which are security-related, without having the security check complete, as long as it’s complete before they start on the security-related stuff.”
Whether this workaround has the desired effect or not, airport bosses certainly appear keen for the bigwigs at Parliament to help.
“Too much of the process relies on manual checks which could be automated,” a Heathrow spokesperson recently told TPG, adding: “Ministers can help ensure that the industry is able to get passengers away both safely and smoothly during the expected busy summer peak by cutting this type of red tape without compromising security.”
While BA has yet to announce which other flights will be affected it’s been reported that they will be short haul routes with low passenger numbers, on routes that have multiple flights per day to minimise disruption. TPG has reached out to British Airways for further clarity on the flights that could be affected.
Previous routes already hit earlier this month have included long-haul flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo, almost half of flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Miami (MIA), cut down to one each way a day between 4 June 4 and 7 September.
As a result, the axed daily Miami flight will now instead be served by longstanding business partner American Airlines. In some cases this has only left more passengers befuddled, with one passenger writing to BA on Twitter: ‘My husband & I have had our flight from Heathrow to Miami changed from morning to afternoon. My daughter was travelling with us. You have now put her on an American Airlines flight splitting us up. Please help. No reply Customer Services.’
While the bulk of BA’s affected services are at its Heathrow base, regional airports also suffering from the cancellations include Aberdeen (ABZ), Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA), Manchester (MAN) and Newcastle (NCL).
In a recent statement about the cancellations, a spokesperson for BA said: “Aviation has been one of the industries worst hit by the pandemic and airlines and airports are experiencing the same issues rebuilding their operations while managing the continuing impact of COVID-19. We are also building a completely new subsidiary at Gatwick while increasing the size of our schedule at Heathrow.
“While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate as planned, as a precaution we’ve slightly reduced our schedule as we ramp back up,” the spokesperson said, adding that passengers affected would be rebooked onto earlier or later flights either with BA or an alternative carrier. They would also be able to request a full refund on their booking.
The continued cancellations could be a hint toward more travel chaos at U.K airports this summer in the wake of the mass delays, passenger panic and chronic understaffing which engulfed the Easter holidays.
The U.K. flagship carrier isn’t the only airline hampered by issues right now, either, with EasyJet still reported to be cancelling up to 70 flights a day at its London Gatwick (LGW) HQ and elsewhere.
If you have been affected by a cancellation or delay with BA or EasyJet, then read on to see what you can do about it:
How to rebook or Claim compensation with British Airways
Anyone whose flight is cancelled with British Airways is entitled to a full refund.
If your flight is delayed for five hours or longer, you can apply for a refund for the parts of your journey you did not fly. If you’re delayed at your final destination by more than three hours and that delay arises from causes from BA’s side you can claim compensation as well.
If you’ve missed a connecting flight booked with British Airways, the airline must automatically rebook you on the next available BA service to your destination. If an overnight stay is needed the airline will book you accommodation.
Click here to find out more on BA’s official website.
How to rebook or Claim compensation with EasyJet
If your flight has been cancelled, EasyJet will attempt to rebook you on another flight within 24 hours.
The low-cost airline also offers passengers an air voucher (available to use for 12 months from the date of issue) or a full refund for any flight cancellations. If you request a refund the airline says it can take up to a week to process, and you can track the claim here.
Similarly to BA, the airline will provide overnight accommodation if needed. Passengers can request a room after they’ve transferred onto a new flight, or if there’s any immediate issues they can contact ground staff.
Where there are delays of up to two and three hours, passengers are entitled to £3 vouchers (hey, it’s a bottle of water). For delays of longer than five hours you change your flights free of charge (subject to seat availability) or apply for a full refund. See more at EasyJet’s Disruption Hub.
Additional reporting by Jordan Waller.
Featured image by Steve Parsons/PA Images/Getty Images.
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