Gatwick slashes summer flights in bid to avoid more airport chaos

17 June 2022, 08:44

Gatwick cancels 4.000 flights
Gatwick cancels 4.000 flights. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

Gatwick cancelled thousands of flights due to crippling staff shortages that sparked weeks of travel chaos for people desperate to get abroad.

Airport chiefs said they will limit the number of flights to 825 in July and 850 in August. This compares to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.

This means 4,000 flights will be axed until September - meaning 800,000 people will have to find alternative travel arrangements - but Gatwick's bosses hope it will help passengers "experience a more reliable and better standard of service".

Gatwick said that the reduction allows airlines to manage more predictable timetables and help the ground handling companies during the school holidays, adding that the vast majority of scheduled flights this summer will operate as normal.

Yesterday, holidaymakers were scrambling to find alternative ways of getting home after hundreds of flight cancellations left them stranded in Europe.Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting for later flights as they raced to return to work and school after half-term.

Gatwick's review found that a number of companies based at the airport are continuing to operate with a severe lack of staff resources over the summer holiday period.

The airport warned that if the issue was not addressed, passengers could experience queues, delays and cancellations. It comes after a busy Jubilee holiday week, which saw more than 150 flights being cancelled across the UK on the eve of the Jubilee.

Gatwick said it operated around 800 flights a day during the Jubilee week.

Travel chaos at Gatwick
Travel chaos at Gatwick. Picture: Alamy
Planes at Gatwick
Planes at Gatwick. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Investigation launched after disabled passenger dies getting off plane at Gatwick

Read More: Half-term holiday chaos as mass queues form at airports and two hour waits for ferries

Chief executive of Gatwick Airport Stewart Wingate said: "Gatwick prepared well for the restart of international travel by successfully reopening our South Terminal and we have now successfully recruited 400 new colleagues to help us process passengers quickly through security this summer.

"We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers this summer, and while more newly recruited staff will start work in coming weeks, we know it will be a busy summer.

"However, it is clear that during the Jubilee week a number of companies operating at the airport struggled in particular, because of staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers – and also our airlines – to better match their flying programmes with their available resources.

"As has already been the case, the vast majority of flights over the summer will operate as normal, and the steps taken today mean that our passengers can expect a more reliable and better standard of service, while also improving conditions for staff working at the airport.

"I am immensely grateful to all our staff for their tireless work over the last few months to get the airport back up and running, and for helping get passengers away on their travels."

It came as a disabled passenger fell to his death on an escalator at Gatwick Airport.

The man had been waiting for assistance to disembark an EasyJet flight on Wednesday when he became frustrated and left to navigate his way through the busy North Terminal.His death is the first to be linked to the travel chaos engulfing airports across the country.A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’The source told The Sun: ‘There’s been a real issue with staffing problems and some disabled people have had to wait for hours for help.‘Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.’Travel expert Paul Charles, from The PC Agency, said: ‘Questions will be asked about the lack of staff available to assist in the middle of the day when this flight arrived. It shows the increasing frustration of some passengers who can’t wait on aircraft for long periods hoping help may eventually arrive.’Gatwick is one of many airports that have witnessed huge queues and flight chaos caused by staff shortages this month.Earlier this week, EasyJet revealed it was taking four weeks longer than normal for new cabin crew to receive security passes because of referencing delays.Holiday plans for millions of Britons continue to hang in the balance as holidaymakers brace for a week of rail chaos.Gatwick Express cancelled all trains for three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.Gatwick outsources its assistance services to provider Wilson James, it was reported.A spokesman for EasyJet said: ‘A number of our cabin crew provided medical assistance to a passenger at Gatwick whilst waiting for paramedics. However, the passenger sadly passed away.’Airline are even being forced to charter planes to avoid cancelling holiday flights amid staffing shortages in the industry.Tui, easyJet and British Airways are among those chartering aircraft at huge expense just so they can fulfil bookings.It is understood the airlines have plenty of planes but not enough cabin crew to steward them.Charter planes come with cabin crew, meaning it is preferable to lease these rather than cancel holidays. But it means flight times can change at the last minute, creating more chaos for travellers. It also means food and drink are not always available on the flights.Thousands are getting emails from carriers saying their flight has been changed to a charter service.EasyJet passengers flying from Gatwick to Kalamata in Greece were sent an email at the weekend, saying: ‘Please be advised that your flight is operated by SmartLynx Latvia on behalf of easyJet. Fresh sandwiches and hot food may not be available on your flight.’Tui customers flying to Cyprus were told: ‘Your flights will now be operated by EuroAtlantic Airways on behalf of Tui Airways.’ The company described EuroAtlantic as an airline which ‘provides charter services and ad-hoc flights’.British Airways has been chartering planes from Finland’s national carrier Finnair. Yesterday easyJet cancelled another 70 flights across Europe with 218 more delayed.Wizz Air and Tui also cancelled dozens over the half-term holidays and British Airways has removed 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, from its schedules.

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