British holidaymakers face more delays as airlines cancel hundreds of flights on the eve of a bank holiday weekend due to staff shortages.
Passengers are stuck in long queues at UK airports after more than 150 flights were cancelled on Wednesday alone.
EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, and British Airways axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow. Tui Airways is continuing to cancel six daily flights at Manchester Airport, which represents a quarter of its schedule.
According to aviation data firm Cirium, 377 flights from UK airports were cancelled in the seven days up to and including Tuesday.
Airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months, with the situation worsening this week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend.
The aviation industry is suffering from severe staff shortages. Airlines and airports made thousands of employees redundant during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, but are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has blamed the chaos on travel firms, accusing them of having “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver” despite government warnings.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, Shapps said: “It’s been very distressing to see passengers facing yet more disruption at airports, having well-earned holidays cancelled and plans left in disarray.”
He said the government “has done its part” and “it is now on airports, airlines, and ground handlers to make sure everyone’s well-deserved holidays can go ahead free from the major disruption we’ve seen in recent days.”
Talking to Sky News on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also accused airlines of a “lack of preparation” ahead of the holiday surge.
“I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment that they should have done,” he said.
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.
Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the aviation industry did not know when restrictions would be completely removed or how much flying would be possible this summer.
It added that “the vast majority of the many tens of thousands of UK-departing flights a week” are operating as scheduled.
The main opposition Labour Party accused the government of being “missing in action.”
In a letter to Shapps, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh called for a series of measures such as accelerating security checks for new airport staff and working with the aviation sector to tackle “chronic low pay.”