Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warns airlines over 'heartbreaking' airport chaos

1 June 2022, 20:05 | Updated: 2 June 2022, 00:17

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today warned aviation industry heads to end the 'heartbreaking' scenes at airports following flight cancellations.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today warned aviation industry heads to end the 'heartbreaking' scenes at airports following flight cancellations. Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned aviation industry heads to end the 'heartbreaking' scenes at airports following flight cancellations.

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Mr Shapps told a group of aviation industry chiefs that airlines which have been affected by cancellations "need to learn" from those that have continued to run a smooth service.

He called for holiday firms to "do their bit" and warned that a desire to bounce back after the pandemic was "not an excuse" for overbooking and cancelling flights.

The meeting was urgently called to discuss exceptional disruption seen across UK airports, after thousands of flights were cancelled.

Mr Shapps also warned industry leaders that airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff after personnel shortages at airports and airlines were blamed for the travel chaos.

Package holiday firm TUI today cancelled six daily flights from Manchester, totalling a quarter of its schedule from the airport, while EasyJet scrapped at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Barcelona, Prague, Krakow and Edinburgh.

It comes as airlines were this afternoon still offering cut-price package holidays to Palma de Mallorca, Rhodes in Greece and Cyprus including discounts as part of a "Jubilee Flash Sale".

Mr Shapps also warned industry leaders that airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff after personnel shortages at airports and airlines were blamed for the travel chaos.
Mr Shapps also warned industry leaders that airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff after personnel shortages at airports and airlines were blamed for the travel chaos. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Airlines still selling package holidays despite airport chaos over cancelled flights

Mr Shapps, speaking after the meeting this evening, said: "Today’s meeting was a chance to hear from airports and airlines first-hand what went wrong this week.

'The scenes we are witnessing at airports are heart-breaking, with holidaymakers missing out on their first trips abroad after the pandemic.

"We’re grateful to those airlines and operators who have continued to deliver good services despite the current pressures and we recognise that not all operators have been affected in the same way.

"I also understand the resourcing strains on the aviation sector but it does not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service. The companies who have seen the most disruption need to learn from those who ran services smoothly.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely to make sure consumers don’t lose out from any further disruption.

"Both myself and the Aviation Minister have made the changes needed to allow the sector to prepare for summer, but now we need industry to do their bit.

"We have been crystal clear – run services properly and according to schedule or provide swift, appropriate compensation.

"We do not want to see a repeat of this over the summer - the first post-covid summer season – and will be meeting again in the coming weeks to understand the progress that is being made.”

Read more: 'He's winging it': Mumsnet CEO suggests Boris is not 'qualified' to be PM

Chief Executive of Airlines UK Tim Alderslade, speaking after the meeting, said: "We want to work collaboratively with Ministers to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, in good time for the summer peak, and it was good to discuss options with the Transport Secretary during what was a productive meeting.

"We ultimately have to work together to solve this. Aviation is a complex eco-system with lots of moving parts and we can't operate in isolation.

"This isn't an airline issue or an airport issue or a Government issue. We're in this together and we look forward to exploring options with Ministers to move the sector forwards as we approach the summer."

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