More flight disruption warned as airlines’ deadline for cancellations looms

Strikes leave ‘question mark’ over British Airways summer scheduling, The Independent told

Travel chaos continues as crowds gather in Gatwick airport at 4am

Sweeping flight cancellations that threaten to scupper holiday plans for thousands of passengers are set to be announced next week as strike action leaves a “question mark” over this year’s summer air travel schedule.

The government is preparing to introduce new regulations to allow a one-off “amnesty” on airport slot procedures in a bid to present a more practicable flight schedule to prevent last-minute cancellations that have plagued the industry in recent weeks.

The move will mean airlines will be able to cancel their flights without fear of penalties – but operators must submit their summer schedule by Friday, a spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said.

The decision has been met with praise from British Airways (BA) and Heathrow Airport – both of which have been subject to some of the worst travel chaos of late.

A spokesperson for Heathrow said the slot amnesty is “good news for passengers”, adding: “This amnesty will enable airlines to make early choices to consolidate their schedules, boosting the resilience of summer operations and giving passengers the confidence they deserve ahead of their journeys.

“We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.”

But a spokesperson for the airport also told The Independent that the impending BA strike action planned for later in the summer left an “extra question mark” over whether BA can meet the scheduling plans it will lay out next week.

BA staff are demanding that pay which was cut by 10 per cent during the pandemic is reinstated. They say their wages were “stolen” from them last year and they faced “fire and rehire” tactics.

The impending walkouts add more “uncertainty” for Brits keen to make the most of the summer after two years of Covid-related disruption, a spokesperson added.

They continued: “I would imagine that British Airways are looking at the summer as a whole. So, one thing is, what is the schedule they could operate? Another is, what are their contingencies if the strike action does indeed go ahead?

“It might be that they don’t need to take out shed loads of flights because we also don’t yet know the scale.”

The Independent has contacted BA regarding the likelihood of it being able to draw up an accurate flight schedule in the face of strike action, but has not yet received a response.

It was also asked to outline its plans for alerting customers should their flight be cancelled, delayed or rescheduled due to walkouts.

According to The Mirror, BA already needs to reallocate 80 to 85 per cent of its passengers whose flights have been scrapped in recent days.

Last month, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it would give airlines a short window to hand back slots for the rest of the summer season that they are not confident they can operate.

“This will help passengers find alternative arrangements ahead of time, rather than face the kind of last-minute cancellations seen over the Easter and half-term holidays,” the department said.

This week, Heathrow ordered flights to be cancelled because it could not handle them.

On Thursday and Friday passengers at the airport complained of long queues, cancelled flights and lost baggage as “schedule intervention” and disruptions at UK airports were exacerbated by strikes in Spain.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We welcome these new measures, which 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, and to protect more of our holiday flights.”

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