ritish Airways has announced the cancellation of at least 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow on Wednesday as airlines struggle to cope with soaring half-term holiday demand.
The airline says passengers were given advance notice. Meanwhile EasyJet has canceled at least 31 flights to Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.
It comes after as a Cabinet minister slammed aviation bosses for the chaos at airports in Britain stressing they were warned months ago they needed to recruit more staff.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab accused airline chiefs of a “lack of preparation” for the upsurge in people who have booked foreign holidays.
Tens of thousands of families have had flights canceled or delayed in recent days and there are fears the problems will get worse in the summer months.
Mr Raab told Sky News: “There has clearly been a lack of preparation for that surge back of demand of holidaymakers.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been talking to the industry for months now, saying that this would come and they need to make sure you have got your recruitment in place.
“I do not think the airline operators have done the recruitment that they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.”
Heathrow Airport advise arriving at least three hours before flight
Union chiefs call for urgent talks with Sadiq Khan in bid to avert Tube strike
Union leaders are calling for urgent talks with London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a bid to avert a 24-hour Tube strike.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union are set to walk out on Monday, threatening travel chaos immediately after the Jubilee weekend.
The union is protesting over job cuts and a “looming threat” to pensions.
There’s no point in our union continuing to sit opposite management representatives who have neither the inclination nor the authority to negotiate a settlement, when the power lies with the Mayor
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are demanding a direct face to face meeting with Mayor Sadiq Khan to sort this mess out.
“There’s no point in our union continuing to sit opposite management representatives who have neither the inclination nor the authority to negotiate a settlement, when the power lies with the Mayor.
“The mayor of London has tax-raising powers. Just four banks made a profit of £ 34bn last year and are set to pay out over £ 4bn in bonuses to London traders. A windfall tax on those profits would more than adequately fund London’s transport network.
“Mayor Khan must choose either the take on the Tory government and demand a just funding deal for Londoners or attack loyal Tube workers who keep the capital moving day in day out.”
Passengers vent their frustration over Gatwick travel chaos
Our reporter Ezra Arahu is on the ground at Gatwick speaking to passengers about their experiences.
A group of four has told the Standard they were left stranded overnight at Gatwick airport, after being forced to wait four to five hours at baggage reclaim for their luggage.
The group, including a two-year-old child and a heavily pregnant woman, landed back in London late on Wednesday from Antalya in Turkey.
They only managed to leave the airport by noon on Thursday and said the wait had been really hard on them.
“The wait was torture, especially with a baby and a pregnancy.” The service was terrible, “one of the group said.
Meanwhile, another passenger, Joanna Sadec, 58, and her family arrived at the airport with hours to go before their 11:05 am flight.
They waited to find they had received a notification telling them that their flight was canceled
Ms Sadec said: “Nobody was helpful. We were given a number to call but there was nobody there.
“They then sent us to a gate to collect our luggage but there was nobody there.
“The service was really poor and only one person tried to help us.”
She said she is now being forced to take another flight from Luton on Friday.
Unite: Travel chaos is because thousands of jobs have been cut
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UK’s airports are in crisis because thousands of jobs have been slashed and working conditions attacked.
“Our money was handed over to firms without any strings attached. Literally hundreds of millions went to the aviation sector during the pandemic, and instead of bringing stability those firms have brought us chaos.
“They did not protect jobs, many just used public money to prop up their share price or to pay for ‘fire and rehire’ to hammer pay and conditions. That is why we are where we are.
“It’s time for public money to have a hard-wire link to jobs. No more handouts without responsibilities. Taxpayers do not pay firms to sack their workers and cut their pay and conditions. ”
Calls for Army to save Jubilee weekend from travel chaos
The Liberal Democrats have called for the Army to be deployed to stop the “chaotic scenes at airports up and down the country”.
“Families’ half-term getaways have been thrown into disarray and now they face the prospect of a long weekend spent sleeping in airports and sitting in traffic jams,” the party’s transportation spokeswoman Sarah Olney said.
“We need drastic action now to tackle this travel carnage and break the logjam.
“That’s why drafting Britain’s best and brightest logistics minds from the Army to get things moving again is a no-brainer.
“Conservative ministers need to get a grip on this chaos at the 11th hour to save the jubilee weekend. Empowering the Army to run point from a command center would do just that.”
Airlines UK: Industry did not know when Covid restrictions would be removed
Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the aviation industry did not know when restrictions would be completely removed or how much flying would be possible this summer.
It added that “the vast majority of the many tens of thousands of UK-departing flights a week” are operating as scheduled.
All remaining coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.
Labor accuses the Government of being ‘missing in action’
Labor’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the Government of being “missing in action”.
In a letter to Mr Shapps, she called for a series of measures such as accelerating security checks for new airport staff and working with the aviation sector to tackle “chronic low pay”.
She said: “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. ”
All remaining coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.
Labor: ‘Govt should move heaven and earth to stop transport chaos’
Labor’s shadow leveling up, housing and communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Wednesday “any government worth its salt would be moving heaven and earth to stop the misery and the chaos” unfolding at airports.
She said: “The Government was warned all the way through the pandemic that the loss of skilled staff was going to create problems.
“They need to show some leadership and take some ownership of this crisis – get around the table with management and with workers’ representatives in the travel industry in order to end the chaos.
“We need a proper post-Covid plan to get the industry back on its feet and get things moving again, including filling recruitment shortages that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.”
Speaking in Wakefield, Ms Nandy added: “When things go wrong, it’s the Government’s job to step up and try and fix it.”
Grant Shapps: Travel firms have ‘oversold flights’
The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines and airports repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the Covid-19 crisis as Government travel restrictions suppressed demand.
They are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed travel firms have “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver”.
He went on: “This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer.”
Mr Shapps has demanded a meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers to “find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays”.
Pictured: Departures at Gatwick South Terminal on Thursday