Like dark clouds on the horizon, threatening to ruin a day at the beach, we’ve known for some time that the summer vacation season may not be as we hoped. Strikes, staff shortages, airport capacity limits and baggage handling chaos have combined to ruin thousands of vacations.
But British Airways’ latest announcement that it would cancel more than 10,000 short-haul flights between August and October was a huge blow. Eighteen percent of its daylight saving time has now been removed, accounting for millions of seats. How does British Airways make such a mess of its raison d’être: to fly and serve?
At the heart of the problem for British Airways, as it is for many airlines and airports at the moment, is staff shortages. During the pandemic, the flag carrier has cut around 10,000 jobs and furloughed 25,000 employees. Now international travel is back, but filling those slots has been harder than expected. Some staff members reconsidered their careers and disappeared, while others could not be brought back.
Travel expert John Grant of Midas Aviation said: “I heard a story of a former BA employee made redundant at the start of Covid from a £38,000 front-line position who was recently called up and asked for a salary of £18,000. They refused. For those who are willing to join, the lengthy security investigation process is taking longer than usual.
Retention is as big an issue as recruiting. Staff morale is said to be low and strikes are planned for the end of July amid ongoing pay disputes. The situation is said to have been further aggravated by ill-timed and ultimately futile attempts by parent company IAG to buy Spanish airline Air Europa in 2021. Back-to-back computer crashes until early 2022, one can only assume, would not have done the rosiest life for staff.
Credit where due, British Airways has tried to manage its flight schedule this summer. In May, the airline cut 16,000 flights in a bid to avoid last-minute cancellations. But it was not enough. “They have now recognized that further cuts were inevitable,” says aviation expert John Strickland.
British Airways is not alone. Low-cost airline easyJet has also cut thousands of flights this summer, partly due to its own staff shortages, but also because Gatwick airport has imposed capacity limits on services during July and August. Part of the difficulty for British Airways and easyJet is that they operate primarily from the country’s two biggest airports, Gatwick and Heathrow, where resources are particularly limited at the moment, as evidenced by Heathrow’s recent unfortunate baggage handling crisis. .
Ryanair and Jet2, on the other hand, operate from smaller regional airports such as Luton and Stansted, which have been able to adapt better. In a report by The Telegraph, looking at flight cancellations through May, British Airways canceled 142 departures from the UK (1.09% of its operations), while Jet2 canceled just five (0.09%) and Ryanair, three (0.02%). The latter has been praised for using travel to get back on track this summer by keeping staff and negotiating pay cuts with unions.
Compounding British Airways’ Troubles, Consumer Rights Magazine Which? has denounced him to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for “failing to inform passengers of their right to compensation and not diverting customers at the first opportunity.” According to the editor of Which? Rory Boland Travel: “The CAA must take action if BA fails to meet its legal obligations amid this latest round of cancellations.”
It’s hard to see how they’ll do it. Paul Charles, travel expert and CEO of PC Agency, said: “I can’t begin to understand how British Airways will manage to process refunds for another 10,500 flight cancellations. They just don’t have enough people to reimburse customers that quickly. I’m still waiting for refunds from five weeks ago, beyond the 14-day window.”
A British Airways spokesman said: “While most of our flights are not affected and most customers will depart as planned, we do not underestimate the impact this will have and we are doing everything we can to get their travel plans back on track.” to work”. clue. We are in touch to apologize and offer rebooking options for new flights with us or another airline as soon as possible or issue a full refund.”
With low staffing and high demand, all airlines and airports face challenges this summer. But British Airways’ mistake has been in not accurately forecasting the extent of the trouble ahead. While Ryanair was on the beach securing windbreaks, British Airways was renting sun loungers as storm clouds rolled in.
By allowing customers to book flights that, as a result, will not take off this summer, British Airways has created a very powerful enemy: millions of very disappointed passengers. The airline may not have the opportunity to fly or serve these people again.