The budget airline today apologised for its part in the crisis that has seen holidays blighted, but also set out plans to cancel thousands more flights.
With the aviation sector already in turmoil, the budget airline admitted it was unable to cope with an “unprecedented ramp up” in demand for flights. Gatwick and Amsterdam, its top biggest airports, will be the worst hit by the cancellations.
Analysts at Bernstein think the lost flights will cost easyJet between £100 million and £200 million this year, though the company declined to give an estimate.
If the analysts are right that means trouble for investors as well as customers.
The shares fell 10p to 426p today – they are down 48% this year.
City analysts think more than 10,000 flights will be cancelled in the run up to September. The government has been encouraging airlines to cancel flights early to give customers a chance to rebook.
But if easyJet’s move is copied across the sector, that is likely to see many thousands of holiday hopes dashed.
Easyjet blamed air traffic control delays and staff shortages at airports and in ground handling.
It added: “A very tight labour market for the whole ecosystem including crew, compounded by increased ID check times, has reduced planned resilience further.”
Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, said:
“Delivering a safe and reliable operation for our customers in this challenging environment is easyJet’s highest priority and we are sorry that for some customers we have not been able to deliver the service they have come to expect from us.
“While in recent weeks the action we have taken to build in further resilience has seen us continue to operate up to 1700 flights and carry up to a quarter of a million customers a day, the ongoing challenging operating environment has unfortunately continued to have an impact which has resulted in cancellations.”
Brexit has hampered hiring plans, claims Lundgren, who says he has 129 trained cabin crews that can’t be employed because they are awaiting clearance from regulators.
The cuts mean EasyJet will run at around 90% of its pre-pandemic flights (2019) in July to September, down from a previous target of 97%.
At the weekend, Gatwick said it would cut the number of daily flights at the airport to 825 in July, down from 900. It claimed this would help passengers “experience a more reliable and better standard of service”.
Passengers who are told of cancellations at least 14 days ahead of time are not entitled to compensation.
With rail workers poised to begin the biggest strike in 30 years on Tuesday, experts warn that customers face a summer of travel misery that will extend far past just airlines.
Treasury minister Simon Clarke said this morning there was “no point giving false hope” that the rail strikes can be avoided.