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UK Easter travel disruption continues as airlines brace for bumpy summer

·3-min read
Easter travel Passengers queue for security screening in the departures area of Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport in Manchester, Britain April 4, 2022. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Easter travel: Passengers at Manchester airport reported waits of up to 30 hours and others missed their flights amid severe staff shortages. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Britain’s Easter travel disruption has continued to create mayhem at UK airports on Tuesday as passengers complain of long queues, delays and last-minute flight cancellations.

Holidaymakers at the UK’s busiest airports Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham have been left stranded, with warnings of a bumpy summer period ahead.

Apart from flight issues, travellers hoping for an Easter getaway across the English Channel have also been plagued by delays in ferry services and the Eurotunnel. The latter said services were back to running as normal on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Europe’s largest budget airline Ryanair (RYAAY) has said that it expects average air fares during this year's summer peak season to be 5-10% higher than pre-pandemic prices in the same period of 2019.

“What we're seeing at the moment is prices are slightly lower than they were in 2019, pre-COVID, through March, April and May,” CEO Michael O'Leary told the Irish Independent.

“They're somewhere between 5% and 10% higher at the moment through June, July, August and September.”

Read more: Could UK’s rapid COVID cases ruin Easter travel plans as easyJet and BA cancel flights?

It comes as carriers including easyJet (EZJ.L) and British Airways (BA) are expected to cancel more flights in the coming days, with over 120 flights grounded on Monday.

EasyJet is likely to ground around 60 flights on Tuesday, after cancelling 62 on Monday, as COVID-related staff absences doubled. The airline plans to cancel more flights in advance “in order to give customers notice”.

“We are contacting customers directly and providing them with their options,” easyJet said. “We expect to make similar levels of pre-emptive cancellations over the coming days, due to the ongoing high level of sickness.”

Britain’s flag carrier BA decided two weeks ago to remove some flights, mostly short-haul routes, from its schedule until May at the least.

According to figures from data firm Cirium, BA has cancelled 662 flights to and from the UK in the last week, and easyJet 357. In total, 1,143 flights were cancelled to and from the UK in the week to 3 April, with 382 flights grounded over the weekend.

Read more: UK travel sector recovery up in the air as staff shortages and higher fuel prices bite

Meanwhile, airline chiefs have turned on the UK government, saying they warned ministers of widespread Easter travel chaos as firms took steps to reduce costs as debt piled.

Martin Chalk, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), told the Telegraph: “The chaos witnessed at British airports may well be repeated throughout the summer because airlines, laden with debt…have not yet rehired enough staff.

“We warned ministers several months ago of the threat of disruption during the Easter holidays because airlines were not building enough resilience in their operations.”

The latest staff shortages come after the aviation industry sacked thousands of workers during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, failing to recruit replacements to meet soaring demand amid the first holiday period since the end of restrictions.

UK COVID cases hit a record high since the onset of the pandemic, with some 4.9 million people in England estimated to have contracted the virus in the week ending 26 March.

Shares in easyJet were up 0.3% to 555.2p in early trade on Tuesday in London, while BA-owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L) rose less than 0.1%.

Watch: Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?

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