Frustrated travellers face more flight cancellations over the coming weeks, as airlines rush to re-work their schedules.
The upheaval comes in response to last month’s announcement that an amnesty will allow airlines to cancel flights while still retaining take-off and landing slots next year.
Airlines buy slots to operate their schedules but can lose them to rivals if they fail to maintain their obligations to the airport and passengers by failing to fly.
It is hoped that being able to more freely adjust schedules will allow airlines to run only the flights they can fully staff, ending the reports of passengers arriving at the airport to find their flights cancelled at the last minute.
British Airways flights from Heathrow are likely to see the highest number of cancellations, according to a report.
The Daily Telegraph said that the airline had planned to carry 1.8 million passengers on more than 9,000 flights from Heathrow in July alone.
A spokesperson for British Airways told the PA news agency that the slot amnesty and consequent cancellations will “help us to provide the certainty our customers deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance”.
They said that the airline “welcomes these new measures”, adding: “Slot alleviation allows airlines to temporarily reduce their schedules but still retain their slots for the next year to maintain networks and provide consumers with certainty and consistency.
“Allocating slots according to the (World Airport Slots Guide system) means airlines can offer the consistent services and efficient connections that consumers are looking for and protect jobs and create growth in the UK.”
Staff shortages in ground handling, airports, and flight crew, have presented major challenges as the aviation sector struggles to move into the peak season after two years of coronavirus pandemic-related turbulence.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled across various airlines over recent weeks, as capacity fails to keep up with demand – a problem also being seen across Europe.
On Thursday, for example, Heathrow asked airlines to remove 30 flights from the morning peak schedule, saying that it was expecting “higher passenger numbers than the airport currently has capacity to serve”.
Many passengers have also had luggage delayed or missing.
There is also the looming threat of industrial action, with hundreds of Heathrow-based check-in staff and ground handling agents voting last month for industrial action over pay.