Business

Flight cancellation amnesty deadline day could place more services in peril

It is the final day for airlines using UK airports to cancel flights without fear of punishment as part of efforts to give certainty to passengers who are, understandably, nervous about their long-awaited summer holidays.

The so-called slot amnesty was announced last month by the government when it became clear the sector could not guarantee a smooth summer getaway following months of disruption.

The return of international travel without COVID restrictions has proved troublesome for airports and many airlines Europe-wide because they lack the staff to cope with high demand for getaways.

It has led to widespread frustration, especially during school holidays and Bank Holiday weekends, with passengers having to endure long queues, delays and last-minute cancellations.

Some airlines and airports introduced their own capacity cuts in a bid to improve the situation.

Figures from the industry regulator the CAA show that just shy of 10,000 – or 1.6% of flights – were cancelled during the first five months of the year.

Airlines have since been accused of failing in their obligations to passengers by the consumer group Which?.

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It has spoken out on the behaviour of airlines towards their customers generally but lodged complaints with the industry regulator about both BA and easyJet, the UK airlines to have cut the highest volumes of services from their schedules this year amid the battle to secure more workers.

Last month the government allowed the amnesty, giving carriers just over a fortnight to temporarily hand back any take-off and landing slots they could not operate.

In normal circumstances, they would usually forfeit slots they do not use.

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During the amnesty, BA has announced several rounds of cuts to flights hitting tens of thousands of passengers, mainly due to fly from Heathrow and Gatwick.

The latest, revealed on Wednesday, meant that 13% of its summer season schedule would not fly this year.

The airline said that the latest cancellations would affect its least popular routes to better protect holiday flights.

EasyJet, like BA, has also been axing flights in advance at a fair old rate in recent months but it has faced particular criticism for last-minute cancellations.

It is understood to have used the amnesty to ditch around 11,000 more services, while its chief operating officer abruptly quit earlier this week.

EasyJet has no plans to cut more services as it works with affected passengers to secure their summer trips.

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