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Why are airlines and airports in chaos? Experts have their say

The magnitude of the debacle engulfing the UK aviation sector has been laid bare in recent days – and it’s not a pretty sight.

What should have been a relaxing getaway for millions of people this summer has turned into a multitude of worries over last-minute cancellations and airport chaos.

This week, Dubai-based airline Emirates rejected an order from Heathrow to cancel flights to and from the airport to comply with a new cap on passenger numbers.

Heathrow has capped passenger numbers at 100,000 a day by September 11 and has urged airlines to stop selling summer tickets.

Shambolic: Many passengers face long queues and delays at airports

Last week British Airways, previously seen by many as a fixture in the country’s aviation sector, announced plans to ground a further 10,000 flights by the end of October.

Other airlines such as easyJet have also made sweeping cancellations in a bid to contain the chaos.

What is happening in the aviation industry? How did this chaos emerge and why were airports and airlines unprepared for the surely inevitable post-pandemic surge in travel demand? This is Money asked two experts to find out.

Their analysis shows that a potent cocktail of factors came together that triggered the chaotic scenes that can now be seen.

It’s not just UK airports and airlines that are struggling either. Problems are occurring all over Europe, airports such as Schiphol in Amsterdam are also badly affected.

Speaking to This is Money, Rhys Jones, an expert at Head for Points, said: “Basically, the chaos we’re seeing at airports and airlines in the UK is the result of multiple issues occurring at the same time.

“Perhaps the biggest problem was the fact that the furlough program ended in the autumn before demand for air travel had returned to near its previous highs, leaving airlines and airports with tough staffing decisions to make.

“This was further compounded by Omicron delaying the sector’s recovery and the government’s lack of clarity on how and when travel restrictions would be lifted.

“Last December it would have been extremely difficult to predict whether travel would pick up again in 2022 or if Omicron would result in more lockdowns and travel restrictions.

“It could have gone either way and the airline industry was careful not to overextend itself for fear of losing more money than it already had, so was very cautious about ramping back up.”

He added: “The increase over the past six months is also unprecedented as it has gone from very low traffic levels to very high traffic levels in a very short period of time, which is very difficult to manage.

“I don’t think the airline industry has ever experienced such a tremendous boom in such a short period of time – I believe, for example, that the post-9/11 and post-2008 period was more gradual.”

Cancellations: British Airways has canceled thousands of flights until the autumn

Cancellations: British Airways has canceled thousands of flights until the autumn

Notably, Jones doesn’t believe anyone is to blame for the current chaos, as a number of factors have played a role in exacerbating the situation.

As for when the current chaos will start to calm down, Jones said: “I hope that the issues will be resolved by late summer/autumn, which is of course too late for the main school holiday season, which is also the most profitable period for airlines and airports .”

Gordon Smith, a travel expert and aviation journalist, told This is Money: “While there was little doubt that a recovery would eventually occur, the magnitude and speed of the increase in passenger demand caught many companies unprepared.”

He added: “There is serious dislocation between the airlines that have planned properly and are ready for the summer and those that are struggling.

“The tremendous frustration stems from the fact that aviation is a complex ecosystem and airlines are only as strong as their weakest partner.

“You may have your own house in order, but when a contractor or supplier has a problem, you – and your passengers – will soon feel the pain, too.”

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On the question of passenger numbers restrictions and the outlook for the sector, Gordon said: “After more than two years of asking people to board a plane, some airlines are now doing everything they can to keep passenger numbers down.

“It’s an absurd situation, but without quick fixes, it looks likely that this turmoil will continue for the rest of the summer season.”

Another factor that cannot be neglected revolves around one word: recruitment.

In recent months, the airline industry has scrambled to hire new workers after cutting thousands of jobs during the pandemic and many resigning for better-paying work in other industries.

British Airways alone has laid off around 10,000 employees during the pandemic.

Now the airlines, which have been cutting their staffing levels to the bone, have been struggling to recruit quickly after the government suddenly lifted all travel restrictions in March, prompting a huge surge in bookings.

Jones told This is Money: “We’re in one of the hottest labor markets of all time right now, so many workers who previously worked part-time in airports and airlines have found that they can find better paying jobs with better hours elsewhere can get.

“Who gets up at 3am to haul luggage for minimum wage?”

British Airways is offering a £1,000 ‘golden hello’ to new cabin crew as the airline struggles to recruit staff.

While the situation is grim, it’s important to note that not all airlines and airports are faltering, Jones told This is Money.

Jones said: “While British Airways, Wizz Air and easyJet have been particularly tough, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic have fared much more favorably.

“If you haven’t booked your summer vacation yet, it pays to do your homework and find out who and where are doing well.”

If your flight is canceled or you face significant delays at the airport, it pays to know your rights and what compensation you may be entitled to.

This is Money has a handy guide to your flight cancellation rights, what to do if, for example, you can’t go on holiday because your flight has been cancelled, or what to do if you’re stuck at the airport for hours.

How much compensation am I entitled to if my flight is cancelled?
If your flight was canceled less than 7 days before departure
distance departure and arrival times compensation
Less than 1,500km When your new flight departs more than an hour before your original flight and arrives less than two hours after £110
If your new flight arrives more than two hours after your original flight £220
1,500 km to 3,500 km If your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight and arrives less than three hours after £175
If your new flight arrives more than three hours after your original flight £350
More than 3,500km If your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight and arrives less than four hours after £260
If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight £520
If your flight was canceled between 7 and 14 days before departure
distance departure and arrival times compensation
Less than 1,500km If your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight and arrives less than two hours after £110
If your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight and arrives more than two hours after £220
If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight £220
1,500 km to 3,500 km If your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight and arrives less than three hours after £175
When your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight and arrives three to four hours later £350
If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight £350
More than 3,500km If your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight and arrives less than four hours after £260
If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight £520

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Why are airlines and airports in chaos? Experts have their say

Source link Why are airlines and airports in chaos? Experts have their say

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