Gatwick Airport forces airlines to cancel 4,000 flights over summer to avoid a repeat of half-term chaos – affecting 800,000 holidaymakers

  • The airport will limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August 
  • Gatwick will usually run 900 daily flights – meaning thousands face cancellation
  • Bosses hope passengers will ‘experience a more reliable and better standard of service’

Gatwick Airport today cancelled thousands of flights this summer due to staffing shortages that have caused weeks of carnage for millions trying to get abroad for work or a post-pandemic holiday.

The airport is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.

This means 4,000 flights will be axed until September – meaning 800,000 people will have to find alternative travel arrangements – but Gatwick’s bosses hope it will help passengers ‘experience a more reliable and better standard of service’.

It said the decision was taken following a review of its operations and that it is ‘temporarily moderating its rate of growth’ for two months.

Gatwick added that the reduction allows airlines to manage more predictable timetables and help the ground handling companies during the school holidays, adding that the vast majority of scheduled flights this summer will operate as normal.

Holidaymakers were scrambling to find alternative ways of getting home yesterday after hundreds of flight cancellations left them stranded in Europe.

Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting for later flights as they raced to return to work and school after half-term.

Gatwick Airport today cancelled thousands of flights this summer due to staffing shortages that caused chaos in half term (pictured)

4,000 flights will be axed until September – meaning 800,000 people will have to find alternative travel arrangements

A disabled passenger has fallen to his death on an escalator at Gatwick Airport after getting off his flight when he was left on an EasyJet plane.

The man had been waiting for assistance to disembark he and his wife’s flight on Wednesday when he became frustrated and left to navigate his way through the busy North Terminal.

His partner had already been taken off the jet by security staff from Wilson – who are a private firm contracted with helping disabled passengers.

It is understood he was left on the plane and decided to leave himself shortly before the tragedy happened. 

His death is the first to be linked to the travel chaos engulfing airports across the country.

A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.

‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’

 

Many said they were forced to shell out hundreds of pounds for new flights or other modes of transport such as Eurostar trains.

Among them were teachers needing to get back to the classroom and A-level pupils who risk missing exams and even losing university places.

Its airport review found that a number of companies based at Gatwick are continuing to operate with a severe lack of staff resources over the summer holiday period.

The airport warned that if the issue was not addressed, passengers could experience queues, delays and cancellations.

It comes after a busy Jubilee holiday week, which saw more than 150 flights being cancelled across the UK on the eve of the Jubilee.

Airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months, with the situation worsening that week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend.

The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gatwick said it operated around 800 flights a day during the Jubilee week.

Chief executive of Gatwick Airport Stewart Wingate said: ‘Gatwick prepared well for the restart of international travel by successfully reopening our South Terminal and we have now successfully recruited 400 new colleagues to help us process passengers quickly through security this summer.

‘We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers this summer, and while more newly recruited staff will start work in coming weeks, we know it will be a busy summer.

‘However, it is clear that during the Jubilee week a number of companies operating at the airport struggled in particular, because of staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers – and also our airlines – to better match their flying programmes with their available resources.

‘As has already been the case, the vast majority of flights over the summer will operate as normal, and the steps taken today mean that our passengers can expect a more reliable and better standard of service, while also improving conditions for staff working at the airport.

‘I am immensely grateful to all our staff for their tireless work over the last few months to get the airport back up and running, and for helping get passengers away on their travels.’

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Holidaymakers queue for check-in in the Jet2 area of Manchester Airport Terminal Two this week

GLASGOW AIRPORT: One Twitter user posted this picture shortly before midnight and said it was an ‘absolute shambles’ at Glasgow this week, adding: ’40 minutes since the flight landed and no sign of bags. Huge pile of abandoned bags in arrivals’

It came as a disabled passenger fell to his death on an escalator at Gatwick Airport.

Now strikes threaten HOLIDAYS: Gatwick Express cancels ALL trains during TfL and rail walkouts next week 

The holiday plans of Britons were threatened today after Gatwick Express cancelled all trains on three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.

Rail union leaders accused Grant Shapps of ‘bully boy tactics’ after he warned they are putting their jobs at risk by striking next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – and Downing Street said there was ‘still time’ to stop the action.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has demanded inflation-tied pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies as part of a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.

Underpinning the calls for industrial action are also claims that train operators have endured years of pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions. 

The militant union also claims Network Rail plans to cut jobs and reduce spending –with an impact on safety. But Network Rail and the Government have accused the union of an unwillingness to modernise work practices. 

It comes as Eurostar became the latest operator to cancel trains with a total of 41 axed to and from the Continent between next Tuesday and Saturday – putting breaks to France, Belgium and the Netherlands at risk. The firm said it was seeing ‘unprecedented contact levels across phone, email and social channels’ after its announcement.

One passenger, Tanja Goossens, tweeted: ‘Eurostar, you just cancelled our international train from Paris to London due to a national train strike in the UK. Are you also going to refund us for having to cut our holiday short now?!’ 

Gatwick Express trains will also not run on strike days – but there will be limited Southern and Thameslink services running between London Victoria or London Bridge and Brighton, which will call at the airport in West Sussex.

Another social media user, Nadia Holmes, tweeted today: ‘Was so happy that I’m missing the Tube/train strike next week because I’m on holiday… then realised how tf [the f***] am I getting home from Stansted on Thursday?’ 

The man had been waiting for assistance to disembark an EasyJet flight on Wednesday when he became frustrated and left to navigate his way through the busy North Terminal.

His death is the first to be linked to the travel chaos engulfing airports across the country.

A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.

‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’

The source told The Sun: ‘There’s been a real issue with staffing problems and some disabled people have had to wait for hours for help.

‘Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.’

Travel expert Paul Charles, from The PC Agency, said: ‘Questions will be asked about the lack of staff available to assist in the middle of the day when this flight arrived. It shows the increasing frustration of some passengers who can’t wait on aircraft for long periods hoping help may eventually arrive.’

Gatwick is one of many airports that have witnessed huge queues and flight chaos caused by staff shortages this month.

Earlier this week, EasyJet revealed it was taking four weeks longer than normal for new cabin crew to receive security passes because of referencing delays.

Holiday plans for millions of Britons continue to hang in the balance as holidaymakers brace for a week of rail chaos.

Gatwick Express cancelled all trains for three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.

Gatwick outsources its assistance services to provider Wilson James, it was reported.

A spokesman for EasyJet said: ‘A number of our cabin crew provided medical assistance to a passenger at Gatwick whilst waiting for paramedics. However, the passenger sadly passed away.’

Airline are even being forced to charter planes to avoid cancelling holiday flights amid staffing shortages in the industry.

Tui, easyJet and British Airways are among those chartering aircraft at huge expense just so they can fulfil bookings.

It is understood the airlines have plenty of planes but not enough cabin crew to steward them.

Charter planes come with cabin crew, meaning it is preferable to lease these rather than cancel holidays. But it means flight times can change at the last minute, creating more chaos for travellers. It also means food and drink are not always available on the flights.

Thousands are getting emails from carriers saying their flight has been changed to a charter service.

EasyJet passengers flying from Gatwick to Kalamata in Greece were sent an email at the weekend, saying: ‘Please be advised that your flight is operated by SmartLynx Latvia on behalf of easyJet. Fresh sandwiches and hot food may not be available on your flight.’

Tui customers flying to Cyprus were told: ‘Your flights will now be operated by EuroAtlantic Airways on behalf of Tui Airways.’ The company described EuroAtlantic as an airline which ‘provides charter services and ad-hoc flights’.

British Airways has been chartering planes from Finland’s national carrier Finnair. Yesterday easyJet cancelled another 70 flights across Europe with 218 more delayed.

Wizz Air and Tui also cancelled dozens over the half-term holidays and British Airways has removed 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, from its schedules.

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