As British holidaymakers head abroad for the Easter school holiday period and summer holiday demand finally returns to the UK market, travel companies, airports and airlines are finding themselves in a ‘perfect storm.
The entire travel industry is in desperate need of the flood of spending, more than ever before, now that travel restrictions have been dropped. But they are on the back foot because British airlines and airports are understaffed and unable to cope with the numbers. And, COVID-19 is being blamed.
The core British summer holiday season kicked off on Monday, April 4, with EasyJet and British Airways starting to cancel flights due to staff shortages. (BA cut 10 000 jobs in 2020 and says it is trying to re-hire 3 000.) But the airline has not been able to re-hire staff fast enough, and a rising tide of COVID-19 infection means many staff are on sick leave or in isolation. EasyJet says the current rate of staff absence is around double the norm.
According to the Manchester Evening News, BA said many cancellations were actually cuts and a part of the airline’s March decision to reduce its schedule until the end of May, in order to boost its reliability image.
Airlines had already cancelled over 1 000 flights to and from the UK between March 28 and April 3, compared with just 197 over the same period in 2019, pre-COVID, according to the Financial Times, quoting aviation data provider Cirium.
The Airport Operators Association said: “…a combination of a very tight labour market, delays in the necessary government security checks for new and returning staff as well as COVID-related staff absences could put some airport operations under some strain.”
Record-breaking infection rates, due to Omicron sub-variant BA.2 are sweeping through the UK. Although a mild infection, it is causing big numbers of absenteeism across the economy, including airlines and airports.
– Tourism Update