Late airline blames the hurricanes

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S BIGGEST holiday airline, Britannia, suffered a large increase in flight delays last summer, according to figures released yesterday.

Almost one in five of the company's planes were more than an hour late - nearly double the figure from the summer of 1997, according to the report by the Air Transport Users Council. But, overall, the report found that delays to charter flights in and out of main UK airports last summer were about the same as in summer 1997, despite a seven per cent increase in flights. "Britannia has slipped badly and we are looking to the carrier to recover its position in the coming year," said an ATUC spokesman. A spokeswoman for Britannia blamed industrial action in Spain as well as Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Honduras, for the increase in delays.

"Our operational performance during summer 1998 was affected by a number of different circumstances including the Spanish air traffic control strike, Greek industrial action and hurricanes - plus the increase in aircraft and international expansion," she said. She added that the airline had previously been a role model for other airlines and summer 1999 would be a top priority.

But it was not only Britannia which caused problems for travellers. Passengers with Air Europa also suffered severe delays, with a third of the airline's flights more than an hour late. The average delay was 57.54 minutes, putting it bottom of a table of 21 airlines compiled by the council.

The statistics relate to charter flights operating in and out of nine airports from April to October 1998, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Glasgow and Luton. To qualify for inclusion in the table, an airline had to operate at least 100 flights on 10 or more routes during the summer. The average delay last summer was 37.6 minutes compared with 37.5 minutes in 1997.