Flight cancellation rates revealed across Europe

Turkish Airlines was the worst performer on 6.66% in one survey

Passengers at Duesseldorf International Airport in Germany, one of the countries worst-affected in Europe by cancelled flights. AFP
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More than one in 20 flights are being cancelled at short notice by European airlines as the industry struggles to shake off the post-pandemic crisis.

Figures for recent weeks show, as a percentage of its overall capacity, Turkish Airlines was the worst performer on 6.66 per cent, while European short-haul specialist easyJet was not far behind on 5.46 per cent.

The industry has some cause for optimism as the latest data from industry analysts Official Aviation Guide suggest the severity of flight cancellations from 48 hours before departure may be easing.

"Cancellation rates have reduced very slightly at most European airports and airlines over the last two weeks," OAG's chief data analyst, John Grant, told The National.

That was good news for aviation chiefs, including Heathrow's John Holland-Kaye, whose airport has been plagued with luggage problems, cancellations and delays in recent weeks.

But Mr Grant believes the reduction will probably have an undesirable consequence.

"What I suspect we're seeing is slightly higher rates of delays now beginning to occur because airlines are not cancelling, but still don't have enough resources to depart flights on time," he said.

Given its status as a international travel centre, the UK has been badly hit by flight cancellations, but even there the data bodes well.

"Last week's rate in the UK was 1.6 per cent, but only three weeks ago it was 31 per cent, so it's coming down fast," Mr Grant said.

While the UK has registered a steep fall in cancellations, other European countries have seen a similar reduction in rates,

In the week beginning on June 27, the percentage of flights cancelled in Germany ― the worst performer among the major European airports ― was 5.95 per cent.

But two weeks later, in the seven-day period from July 11, the rate had dropped to 2.36 per cent.

Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands were also noteworthy fallers.

The reductions in Spain and Italy were less pronounced but these destinations tended to be starting from a markedly lower base.

Mr Grant ascribes their relatively lowly cancellation rates to much better pandemic management.

"There is a degree of correlation between the amount of support that airlines and airports received during the pandemic and the current rates of cancellations," he said.

"So in Spain, there was a lot more support given to workers and to the airlines.

"And, while it may be coincidence, cancellation rates [there] are much lower than in Germany, the UK or the Netherlands, for example."

A similar correlation can be made from the latest data on scheduled airline cancellations.

easyJet one of worst-performing airlines in Europe

Aviation data company Mabrian looked at the number of scheduled flights for July 1 to 15 that were cancelled on the schedule of June 28, compared with that two weeks before, on June 14.

Despite being frequently criticised not always endearing himself to customers, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary should take a lot of credit for the Irish budget carrier's absence from the list, Mr Grant said.

"Michael O'Leary and Ryanair throughout the pandemic reached working agreements with their unions that allowed them to retain most of their staff and keep them working, whereas easyJet furloughed," he said.

"This meant Ryanair was able to ramp up quickly and more effectively."

The result has enabled the airline to extend its short-haul ascendancy.

"If look at where those two airlines were this week in 2019, Ryanair was probably about 40 per cent or 50 per cent bigger," Mr Grant said.

"Now it's twice the size of easyJet in terms of weekly production. While Ryanair has been growing its network, easyJet has been forced to rebuild."

Updated: July 21, 2022, 11:30 AM