Gatwick Airport to Cut Summer Flights as Staff Shortages Hit UK Travel Industry

Gatwick Airport to Cut Summer Flights as Staff Shortages Hit UK Travel Industry
British Airways aircraft are parked at the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport, in Crawley, Britain, on Aug. 25, 2021. (Peter Nicholls /Reuters)
Alexander Zhang

London’s Gatwick Airport is reducing the number of daily flights during its busy summer period to avoid a repeat of the serious travel chaos earlier this month caused by staff shortages.

Travel disruptions have lasted for months in the UK, but the situation worsened in early June due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend, with more than 150 flights being cancelled across the UK on the eve of the Jubilee.

To avoid more disruptions, Gatwick said it is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.

Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said: “It is clear that during the Jubilee week a number of companies operating at the airport struggled in particular, because of staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers—and also our airlines—to better match their flying programmes with their available resources.”

He said the move will ensure that “passengers can expect a more reliable and better standard of service.”

The aviation industry is suffering from severe staff shortages. Airlines and airports made thousands of employees redundant during the pandemic, but are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.

A review conducted by Gatwick found that a number of companies based at the airport are continuing to operate with a severe lack of staff resources over the summer holiday period.

The airport warned that if the issue was not addressed, passengers could experience queues, delays, and cancellations.

Downing Street welcomed Gatwick’s plan to reduce flights.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “We want everybody to be able to travel freely and easily, which is why we continue to encourage industry to step up their recruitment so they can put enough flights for families who are looking forward to well-deserved holidays after the pandemic.

“We’ve asked the industry to develop schedules so they can realistically deliver over the summer so we obviously welcome this move and it will provide passengers certainty ahead of planned getaways later this year.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has previously blamed the chaos over the Jubilee weekend on travel firms, accusing them of having “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver” despite government warnings.

But industry leaders claim that businesses have suffered from uncertainties over the government’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, which were completely lifted only on March 18.

PA Media contributed to this report.