Almost 200 BA flights were disrupted last weekend, leaving many passengers trapped in airports during connecting flights, sparking a social media furore. Now chief executive Sean Doyle has announced that the airline will have to cut flights over the next few weeks to avoid the same disaster, admitting in an internal message that passengers and employees are “fed-up” with BA’s recent problems.
The issues are emerging at the worst time for the airline, as bookings are at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic after the UK and most European countries ditched Covid traveller tests for fully vaccinated holidaymakers.
Chaos ensued for BA back in February as well, as more than 500 flights were cancelled or delayed following a major IT meltdown.
The nightmares blighting passengers and employees alike have been attributed to IT issues and staff shortages.
BA said flights would be cancelled over the next few weeks, through the Easter holidays and until the end of May.
Last weekend passengers at Heathrow said there were “not enough staff to explain what was going on” and many of the desks appeared “unmanned” at baggage check-in at Terminal 5.
The enormous reduction in passenger numbers during the pandemic caused sweeping job losses in the aviation industry.
According to a report by the Airport Operators Association (AOA), only ten percent of those jobs have been restored.
The report also found that 2021 was an even more devastating year for UK airports than 2020.
According to the report, 2021 passenger numbers were down 12.7percent compared to 2020, and down 78.3 percent compared to 2019.
As a result of these devastating figures, UK airports reported losses of over £10billion last year.
Yesterday AOA boss Karen Dee said that “more stringent restrictions” such as quarantine measures and testing led to UK airports suffering heavier losses than their European counterparts.
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She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Aviation in the UK is something we are very good at and we are optimistic about that and we have seen the UK government move really quickly to remove all the remaining restrictions.
“I think what our report has shown though is that we have taken quite a big hit in the UK and it will be a very competitive process for bringing back those really important routes that support businesses across the UK and our ability to export, to travel around the world and to connect globally and within the UK.
“The more that we can do to bring that back, to generate those routes that are really important the better.”
Signifying the increasing demand for air travel, Gatwick Airport announced it was reopening its south terminal for the first time since June 15 2020 to meet high demand this summer.
Flights have been ramping up from around 300 to 570 a day — the equivalent to opening a medium-sized airport overnight.
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A British Airways spokesperson 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. We have also today launched a completely new subsidiary at Gatwick while increasing the size of our schedule at Heathrow.
“Our experience in the last few weeks has shown we need to build more resilience into our operation to manage staff sickness and our remaining outstanding vacancies in order to provide a consistent service for customers rather than letting them down at the last minute.
“So while the vast majority of our flights continue to operate as planned, as a precaution we’ve slightly reduced our schedule between now and the end of May as we ramp back up.
“We’ve apologised to customers who are affected by this and to limit the inconvenience have re-booked them onto earlier or later flights on the same day they were originally due to travel where possible. We’re also offering them the opportunity to book onto an alternative flight or request a full refund.”