Which airlines and airports are worst for cancellations right now? We crunch the numbers
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Since travel restrictions were lifted in March, a perfect storm of complications — from chronic staff shortages to an apparently unprecedented surge in passenger numbers — has sparked chaos in airports at peak getaway moments.
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The Easter holidays, the May half-term and the Jubilee bank holiday saw airports creak under the weight of a surge in sun-starved holidaymakers battling to get away for the first time in years. Tens of thousands of passengers have been affected by the issues, with airline compensation expected to run into the millions.
But which airports and airlines have struggled the most?
Data from industry analytics firm Cirium has revealed the full extent of the cancellations, broken down by airport and airline over May and July and paints an interesting picture concerning which travel hubs and carriers are bouncing back and which ones are struggling beyond measure.
In the airport category, London Gatwick (LGW) has been by far the worst hit with 497 cancellations since 1 May — more than double that of Heathrow. And things don’t appear to be getting much better for Britain’s second-largest airport, where cancellations in the first two weeks of June (248) have already reached the entire number for May (249).
In total, Cirium’s data shows that the total number of grounded flights since 1 May could equate to a staggering 90,341 seats. Although it is worth noting that cancelled seats do not necessarily mean cancelled passengers, as it is not clear how many tickets had actually been sold for each flight.
Despite its high ranking, unlike the latter three hubs, cancelled flights at Heathrow have dramatically reduced in June, compared to May in a sign Britain’s largest airport could finally be getting a handle on its problems. Something you’d imagine will bring a sigh of relief to Heathrow bosses as the airport’s fourth terminal again bustles to life after spending most of the last two years closed due to the pandemic.
That said, it’s hardly been plane sailing and Heathrow is still clearing the “baggage mountain” that led to upwards of 5,000 passengers being affected on Monday, which are not counted in our analysis.
Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol have all come under fire in recent months for failing to predict the post-pandemic uptick in traveller numbers. Each has played host to chaotic scenes in their terminals as flights were cancelled, many due to delays in processing passengers through customs.
One consistent and major factor in many of the cancellations at Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Luton however is that easyJet flies from all of them. In fact, easyJet makes up 66% of the combined cancellations from the airports it operates from that are featured below (it does not fly from Heathrow, London City or Teeside).
The 20 worst airports for cancelled flights since 1 May
Cancelled flights in May
Cancelled flights in June (to 14th)
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There is one good reason why Gatwick has suffered the most when it comes to cancelled flights: it is easyJet’s primary base of U.K. operations.
EasyJet has struggled with its timetable more than any other airline of late, having cancelled a whopping 932 flights since 1 May. That accounts for 163,265 seats.
The airline has blamed staff shortages, air traffic control delays, “flight caps” at certain airports, and “a very tight labour market” for its problems, which have left the reputation of Britain’s biggest airline in tatters.
Just last February easyJet celebrated 20 years at Gatwick with the announcement of a host of new routes. “Over the last two decades we have remained committed to providing even more choice for our customers travelling to and from the airport, growing our operation to become Gatwick’s largest airline, continuing to provide passengers with an ever-greater range of destinations all with a convenient schedule, low fares and great service for both leisure and business travellers,” said Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK country manager, at the time.
It had planned to operate 79 aircraft from the airport this summer, serving over 120 routes across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
But earlier this week easyJet said it would be cancelling even more flights this summer, with one source telling The Telegraph that the number axed could be as high as 10,000 and affect around 1.5 million passengers.
Elsewhere, Scottish carrier Loganair cancelled 147 flights since the beginning of May.
This week, the Scottish regional airline blamed its larger rivals for creating a knock-on effect that was hampering its local operations. The company’s CEO Jonathan Hinkles said they included having to wait for passengers on delayed connecting flights from Manchester and Birmingham; crews running out of working hours due to delays elsewhere; and severe congestion as flights from all airlines run off schedule.
“The whole system is running under severe pressure, and Loganair is one of six airlines directly engaging with the U.K. Government on how to fix these problems,” he added.
British Airways came in fifth, just ahead of its short-haul subsidiary BA Cityflyer. Staff shortages have heaped pressure on BA, which last month announced a cut of 8,000 flights from its schedule between March and October this year.
In a further sign of trouble on the horizon, last week BA crew polled overwhelmingly in favour of a strike over pay this summer, with unions citing management’s refusal to reinstate a 10% wage cut imposed during the pandemic.
The airline, which says it is undergoing the “biggest recruitment drive in our history”, said it plans to hire 6,000 staff this year despite the slow hiring process held up by government-mandated security vetting procedures.
It is also opening a crew base at Madrid Barajas airport to “bypass British red tape” and has borrowed a number of aircraft from Oneworld partner Finnair in a bid to stabilise its schedules this year.
The 20 worst Airlines for cancelled flights since May 1
Cancelled flights in May
Cancelled flights in June (up to 14th)
Conspicuous by its absence, of course, is Ryanair, which has remained relatively unscathed by the issues.
In fact, the Irish budget carrier is attempting to capitalise on its rivals’ woes, by offering ‘rescue flights’ for U.K. families whose flights are being cancelled by BA, easyJet and TUI.
“While BA, easyJet & TUI cancel thousands of flights across the UK causing travel disruption for UK families, Ryanair continues to operate a full schedule with over 15,000 weekly flights, and today (June 20) we have added over 200 extra flights from/to our 19 UK airports to help the BA, easyJet & TUI customers who have been disrupted by these cancellations,” crowed Ryanair’s Dara Brady. “UK families can now rest easy in the knowledge that Ryanair will fly them to/from their summer holiday destination to enjoy some well-deserved time off with friends and family.”
While the travel sector as a whole is struggling with demand right now and issues such as a staff shortages and slow hiring processes are rife within the industry there does appear to be two outliers struggling more than others right now — at least if the figures for the last six weeks are anything to go by. These outliers are Gatwick Airport and easyJet, the former which largely appears to be topping the cancellation league table as a result of its association with the latter, i.e. being the home base of easyJet.
With the exception of Wizz Air whose, own cancellations have doubled month-on-month for the most part other airlines have seen levels of cancellations largely maintain or at least not rise significantly. Others have seen them drop. Easyjet has not only seen cancellations increase but is still seeing them happen at levels way beyond those of any other airline right now. The game isn’t up for the iconic orange flyers but they do have their work cut out for them in reinstilling customer faith and loyalty, especially as it would appear we’re only set to see more cancellations from the carrier in the coming weeks.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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