Airline chaos to continue this summer, industry chiefs warn

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
File photo dated 26/07/19 of queues in Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport, London. Receiving compensation for airline delays or cancellations should be like getting automatic reimbursement for similar train problems, the Transport Secretary has said. Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Morning programme, Grant Shapps said
Thousands of passengers were stranded over the Platinum Jubilee weekend amid cancelled and delayed flights as the industry scrambles to recover from COVID. (PA)

Travel chaos that left thousands of passengers stranded after their flights were cancelled over the Platinum Jubilee weekend will continue into the summer, MPs have been warned.

Vast queues have been seen at airports as airlines grapple with staff shortages caused by employees being laid off during the pandemic.

In a stark assessment to the business, energy, and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee on Tuesday, experts from Unite, Swissport UK, Airport Operators Association, and Virtual Human Resources Limited all agreed that UK travellers will see the distribution continue into the summer.

The committee's chair, Labour MP Darren Jones, asked the experts: "Will this be fixed in time for the summer?”

Karen Dee, CEO of the Airport Operators Association said: ”I hope it will be better, but not totally.”

Meanwhile, Oliver Richardson, national officer for civil air transport at Unite, said: “Unless we work together, no."

Read more: Airport chaos: Family shares heartbreak over cancelled holiday as flight delays continue ahead of Jubilee weekend

A check in information board at Heathrow Airport T5, London, as British Airways has cancelled all short-haul flights from the airport until midday and further disruption is expected throughout Saturday due to ongoing technical issues. Picture date: Saturday February 26, 2022.
Industry chiefs have warned that the travel disruption will continue into the summer. (PA)

Read more: UK faces post-Jubilee travel chaos

It comes after easyJet on Monday said it is pre-emptively cancelling around 40 flights a day to prevent passengers being stranded by cancelled or delayed flights.

Sue Davies of Which? also told MPs on Wednesday that the responsibility lay with both the industry and the government.

"There’s no doubt that we’ve gone through unprecedented circumstances with the pandemic, and the sector has obviously been particularly affected," said Davies.

“But so have many consumers, and at a time when they’re starting to feel that they can have confidence in travel again, booking a holiday to be put through this awful situation where people have lost money, suffered huge emotional stress.

“Particularly appallingly, we’ve been hearing from lots of people who have just had very little information about actually what’s happening on the ground.

“The airlines and the government were encouraging people to travel again, and we think they’ve just underestimated the capacity issues, and the shortages both within the airlines and the airport services, including baggage handlers.”

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Queues at Gatwick South Terminal at 10:39hrs on Wednesday. More than 150 UK flights were cancelled on Wednesday and passengers who could travel were forced to wait in long queues at airports. Picture date: Wednesday June 1, 2022.
Labour has called on the government to do more to address the airport chaos. (PA)

Read more: Flight delays: airline passengers waiting up to 5 years for compensation

Last week Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport select committee, said the government should have done more to prevent the "perfect storm" of staffing shortages at airports.

“I think there’s been a failure to understand that you can’t just flick a switch and expect the aviation industry to restart," the Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

"They only had the full go-ahead on 18 March. There’s a requirement for them to operate 70% of their slots, otherwise they could lose them.

“So effectively, the government and parliament have told them to restart at those levels, but it can take three months to get staff recruited and through the vetting process…"

Labour has criticised the government for the travel disruption.

"They should show some responsibility, do their job, and take concrete steps to tackle the chaos growing on their watch," said Louise Haigh, shadow transport secretary.

“Passengers and our world-class businesses are demanding action — it’s time for the government to take their fingers out of their ears and take practical steps Labour is proposing.”

“They should tackle the backlog in security checks hampering airport recruitment, work with unions and industry to address chronic low-pay, and cut the red tape contributing to delays at the ports.”

The warnings about summer disruption come after Ryanair staff in Spain voted to hold six days of strikes at the end of June and July.

Watch: Aviation bosses must 'do their bit' to fix travel chaos, minister says

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