Thousands of airline passengers are facing fresh disruption as widespread flight cancellations continue – with travel agents inundated with calls from customers worried the chaos will carry on and ruin their summer holidays.
EasyJet canceled at least 35 flights on Tuesday, with Gatwick the worst affected airport.
Hungarian carrier Wizz Air focused at least seven flights due to serve UK airports.
And British Airways canceled 124 Heathrow flights, although the airline said affected passengers were given advance notice.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents independent travel agents, said: “About 30% of all calls that they’re receiving now are from customers that are reading the headlines, have bookings for July and August in the school holidays, and they are worried.”
She acknowledged the situation is “hideous and disappointing” for passengers whose flights are being cancelled, but added travel agents are trying to reassure customers that “in the vast majority of cases flights are departing and arriving”.
Today’s cancellations are the latest following months of disruption for UK airline passengers – leaving the holiday plans of tens of thousands of travelers in disarray.
The chaos has also impacted those who have managed to getaway, with many thousands of British holidaymakers finding themselves stranded across the rest of Europe after hundreds of flight cancellations.
Matt Wheeler, 37, a train driver from Nottingham, said he and his partner had to make emergency childcare arrangements with relatives after their easyJet flight home from Amsterdam was canceled on Monday.
“They’ll have to take time off work (and) we will now miss a day’s work tomorrow as we won’t be home,” he said.
“It’s a farce… didn’t know about the cancellation until we arrived at the airport at 3.30am, no easyJet staff or any staff that could help us.”
The aviation industry is struggling to recruit new workers after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic – and a blame game has broken out over who is responsible for the crisis.
Airlines, airports and ground handling companies repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the COVID-19 crisis as lockdowns and travel restrictions suppressed demand.
Airlines are now suffering from staff shortages and say government red tape is delaying security checks on any new recruits.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected calls to open the door to more “cheap” overseas workers to relieve the pressure on the sector.
He has claimed airlines and travel firms have “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver” despite government warnings, and accused bosses of “cutting too far”.
The cabinet minister has answered industry demands to speed up security checks for workers and allow some staff in non-security related jobs to take up training immediately.
But he has said it is up to the sector to fix the issues after receiving £8bn of state support and having access to furlough money to keep staff on the books while covid travel restrictions were in place.