BA to 'cancel 800 flights for more than 100,000 holidaymakers'

Airline is trying to avoid repeat of travel disruption

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British Airways will cancel flights for more than 100,000 holidaymakers to try to avoid the travel disruption recently at UK airports.

BA will pull an estimated 800 more flights from its summer schedule as it looks to reduce last-minute cancellations while staffing shortages and long queues continue.

“As the entire aviation industry continues to face the most challenging period in its history, regrettably it has become necessary to make some further reductions,” a BA spokesman said.

“We’re in touch with customers to apologise and offer to rebook them or issue a full refund.”

More than 76,000 seats are being cancelled from Heathrow and 29,400 from Gatwick on flights to more than 70 destinations, including Malaga, Ibiza, Palma, Faro and Athens.

This week, the government is allowing airlines a one-off amnesty on airport slots rules, letting them cancel flights without being penalised until Friday.

Slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports, authorising airlines to take off or land at a particular airport at a certain time.

Airlines must use slots a specified number of times each season to keep them, and this “amnesty” is giving them the leeway to put a more manageable schedule in place without losing slots by cancelling flights.

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It comes after ministers told airlines to review their plans after months of travel chaos.

In May, BA announced that it would cancel 10 per cent of flights between April and October in an effort to avoid having to cut flights on the day of departure.

But the latest cancellations take this figure to about 11 per cent.

The cancelled flights represent 14 per cent of those scheduled from Gatwick and nearly 7 per cent from Heathrow.

“We took pre-emptive action earlier this year to reduce our summer schedule to provide customers with as much notice as possible about any changes to their travel plans,” BA said.

The airline welcomed the slot amnesty, saying it was “making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance, and to protect more of our holiday flights”.

Long queues, cancellations and baggage problems have plagued the travel sector’s comeback from coronavirus restrictions. There have also been strikes across Europe adding to the problems.

Part of the problem in the UK is a shortage of security-cleared staff who can handle baggage and use X-ray machines, which is slowing take-offs and creating long queues.

A spokesman for Heathrow said the slot amnesty was “good news for passengers” and would help.

“This amnesty will enable airlines to make early choices to consolidate their schedules, boosting the resilience of summer operations and giving passengers the confidence they deserve before their journeys,” he said.

“We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.”

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Decades of flight at Heathrow

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Heathrow ordered 30 flights for the morning of June 30 to be cancelled at short notice in a rare “schedule intervention” because it would have been unable to handle the passengers.

BA workers based at the west London airport are deciding on strike dates, which are likely to be during the peak summer holiday period.

Members of the GMB and Unite unions, including check-in staff, voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay.

“An amnesty on slot rules is potentially good news for passengers, as it should encourage airlines who need to cancel more flights to do so now rather than at the last minute, and could ease disruption this summer by letting better-staffed airlines step in and fly routes,” Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said.

“For this to work, carriers must surrender their slots to other airlines if they are unable to fulfil them.

"This will help reduce cancellations and end the unsustainable practice of airlines flying near-empty planes to retain slots.”

Updated: July 05, 2022, 7:36 PM
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