Heathrow Airport worst in Europe for cancellations, UK business committee told

British Airways tops list for UK cancellations, with its mass Covid redundancies blamed

Passengers queues at Heathrow Airport in London. Bloomberg
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Heathrow Airport is the worst in Europe for cancellations, the UK's transport committee is told as it attempts to tackle Britain's continuing travel chaos.

Mass redundancies by top airlines, including British Airways, have been blamed for the cancellations and queues at the airports.

On Tuesday, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee heard evidence about flight cancellations and compensation.

It heard that the worst airline was British Airways, which is cancelling 114 flights a day, followed by easyJet.

“The top airline for cancellations on a daily basis is British Airways,” travel journalist Simon Calder said.

“In some cases they are doing it gentle three weeks before, none of the at the gate last minute cancellations. There are 20,000 seats a day not operating. easyJet cancelled 55 today but the cancellations are much closer to the day. Wizz Air started well but are now having problems.”

He said Ryanair and Jet2 were the best to “guarantee getting there”.

Mr Calder said Heathrow was the worst airport when it came to cancellations, followed by Amsterdam and Gatwick.

Oliver Richardson, national officer for Civil Air Transport, Unite, said the airlines who made the most redundancies are suffering the worst.

“When you look at who is performing worst is correlates with the companies that carried out the most redundancies. Ryanair agreed on no redundancies and a different position was taken by British Airways who lost 10,000 staff through redundancies. They got rid of too many people.”

Passengers in the arrivals hall of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport in London, UK, on Monday. Bloomberg

British Airways refused to respond when the panel asked if its “aggressive sack and rehire” policy was the reason for the mass cancellations.

“We were losing £20m a day and the airline was in a very precarious position, and we had to secure the airlines future,” Lisa Tremble, British Airways' chief corporate affairs and sustainability director, said.

She said up to 85 per cent of people whose flights have been cancelled had been offered an alternative flight within 24 hours.

EasyJet said it had made 2,000 redundancies and accepted it needs improve.

“We haven't got it right and we need to get it right,” said Sophie Dekkers, chief commercial officer at easyJet.

It has been cancelling 55 flights a day but said it was providing refunds within four days and compensation within seven days.

The panel was told 30 per cent of the people working in the industry were EU citizens and many have left the country, and other former employees have now sought careers in different industries.

Sue Davies, head of consumer rights and food policy, Which?, said the airlines need to be held to account.

“There is blatant flouting of consumer rights,” she said.

“We need some short-term action but there needs to be an overhaul of consumer rights. Many airlines are breaking the law with no consequences. We feel this is a systemic problem across the sector that needs a longer term solution. The CAA is not being proactive enough. Ryanair is the worst for compensation, some people are waiting five years.”

Updated: June 14, 2022, 1:01 PM