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Travel disruption – live: Calls for automatic airline refunds grow as Wizz Air adds to advance cancellations

Wizz Air has announced ‘a large number’ of cancellations from 10 June onwards

Lucy Thackray,Simon Calder
Friday 03 June 2022 16:32 BST
Police tell Manchester Airport passengers their holidays are cancelled amid travel chaos

The travel disruption experienced by UK holidaymakers in recent weeks looks set to continue, as Wizz Air becomes the latest airline to announce a series of cancelled flights to and from the UK.

The Hungarian low-cost carrier announced that it is cancelling “a large number of flights” from Doncaster Sheffield Airport from 10 June onwards.

The airline says the move is “a result of Doncaster Sheffield Airport indicating that it is unable to guarantee the terms of its commercial agreement with Wizz Air”.

Meanwhile, easyJet has cancelled at least 30 flights on Friday - the airline has said it is proactively cancelling 240 flights in the 10 days to 6 June, giving passengers some advance notice. British Airways also cancelled 120 flights for Friday - the airline says these are pre-planned and that passengers were given advance notice.

The UK’s airport queues are reported to have largely eased, with fewer problems at security and check-in reported by passengers than in recent days.


What’s the story behind the Wizz Air Doncaster announcement?

Wizz Air’s sudden announcement that it will be closing an entire base - Doncaster Sheffield Airport - and cancelling a large number of flights, could be a portent of the summer to come.

Airlines are increasingly scaling back their commitments in the hope of keeping the rest of the operation going, while they and the airports desperately try to meet the pent-up demand for travel.

British Airways has a de facto cull of about one-tenth of its schedule to and from its main base at London Heathrow – amounting to 120 flights a day. Although there will be some alleviation with more staff and sister airline Iberia brought in, I expect a significant number of cancellations to continue daily through to the end of the summer schedules in October.

Likewise at Gatwick, easyJet is stretched even with two dozen daily cancellations. This morning passengers checked in and waiting for their flights to Milan and Madrid discovered with only two hours’ notice that their planes would not be taking off.

Wizz Air is also making cancellations at Gatwick, and the plan behind the closure announcement at Doncaster is that staff from the Yorkshire base can be redeployed at the Sussex airport.

(Roger Donovan / Mediaphotos)
Simon Calder3 June 2022 16:32

‘The dream of travel vs the reality’: Eurostar passenger posts video of Paris queues

A Eurostar passenger travelling from Paris’s Gare du Nord has posted video showing a thick queue to get to the departures zone.

“The dream of international rail travel vs the reality. @Eurostar Paris today - it’s as if they didn’t expect hundreds of people to arrive and had never seen this before,” wrote Tony Jones.

Meanwhile Twitter user @OtterlyElz criticised the operator’s queue management for families.

“I understand there are technical issues in Paris this morning but putting all the young kids in one queue and then making them wait much longer than everyone else is unacceptable,” they tweeted this morning.

Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 15:49

Our sustainable travel event: Join the conversation on 29 June

When The Independent’s travel editor Helen Coffey set herself the challenge of going flight-free in 2020, little did she know she’d soon be joined by the rest of the world – if not by choice – due to the small matter of a global pandemic.

Thirty months, eight trips and countless conversations with climate change scientists, experts and activists later, she’s more determined than ever to stay grounded in 2022 and beyond.

In an exclusive panel event later this month, Helen will be joined by train guru Mark Smith – the rail afficionado behind the Man in Seat 61 website – and Anna Hughes, author and director of the Flight Free UK campaign, as they discuss the best ways to swap the middle seat for the open road.

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Sustainable travel experts to discuss flight-free holidays

Get inspired for your next adventure and find out why our toxic relationship with flying needs to change at our Zoom panel event

Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 15:11

Wizz Air cancels multiple Doncaster flights from 10 June

Wizz Air has said that “with deep regret” it has taken the decision to cancel “a large number of flights” to and from Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

The cuts to Wizz Air’s schedule are from 10 June onwards. It says that passengers will be contacted and offered a refund, alternative flight or airline credit with a small bonus amount.

A spokesperson said: “It is with deep regret that we have had to take the difficult but responsible decision to cancel a large number of Wizz Air flights to/from Doncaster Sheffield Airport from 10 June 2022. Passengers with bookings affected by this will be contacted via email today with advice on all their options, which include: rebooking, a full refund, or 120 per cent of the original fare in airline credit.

“This decision is unfortunately a result of Doncaster Sheffield Airport indicating that it is unable to guarantee the terms of its commercial agreement with Wizz Air. Our priority is to minimise the overall disruption to our UK customers and protect the employment of our crew. As such, Doncaster Sheffield Airport based pilots and cabin crew have today received notification of this news, and have been offered the opportunity to fly out of another base in the UK.

“Given the current challenging operational environment in the travel industry, in particular with staff shortages within air traffic control and at airports, this decision also stabilises our operations at other UK bases to help minimise disruption and delay as much as possible.

“Despite unprecedented difficulties in the travel industry over the past two years, Wizz Air remains committed to long-term growth in the UK, creating hundreds of direct jobs while also stimulating the tourism and hospitality industries. We sincerely apologise to our customers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire for the inconvenience this has caused.”

Routes affected include: Doncaster Sheffield Airport to Lanzarote, Malaga, Alicante, Fuerteventura (winter schedule only), Larnaca, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife, Dalaman, Faro, Kosice (winter schedule only), Gran Canaria (winter schedule only), Riga (winter schedule only), and Lublin (winter schedule only).

Routes that remain unaffected include: Flights from Cluj, Gdansk, Krakow, Katowice, Otopeni, Poznan, Vilnius, Warsaw and Wroclaw to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

A Wizz Air plane (PA Wire)
Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 14:24

Dublin’s emergency queuing area ‘not needed’: Passenger photos show empty ‘triage area'

Dublin Airport’s contingency plans for the jubilee weekend have included hiring 40 extra security staff and creating an emergency “triage mechanism” - essentially, a large covered queuing area outside of the terminals.

The idea is to ask passengers who arrive far too early for their flight to queue outside rather than clogging up the security lanes with customers whose flights are later on in the day.

However, passengers at the airport have said queues are being managed well and the outdoor triage area left empty.

“All OK at Dublin airport - very busy but several security lanes open. Marquees and holding area not currently needed!” said Rebecca Halpern.

However, several customers at the airport reported long queues at airside food and drinks outlets.

“Through bag drop and security in 35 minutes at @DublinAirport at 13:00 in T1. The experience was as pleasant as could be! Queues are insane in T1 for a drink/food however, so glad our premade rolls and crisps will see us through. Can’t win ‘em all!” wrote Lianne Ghaill on Twitter.

Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 14:20

Jet2 denies ‘Lazy Brits’ comments came from airline CEO

The holiday company and airline Jet2 has denied that its boss Steve Heapy blamed the present travel disruption on “lazy Brits who live off benefits and sit on their arses” at yesterday’s meeting of aviation leaders.

The Sun this morning reported that the comments had been made at yesterday’s meeting between Department for Transport ministers and airlines bosses to try to resolve the chaos seen at UK airports during the past month. It said the comments were “rumoured” to have been made by the Jet2 CEO.

However, Jet2 says these are “categorically not” the views of either Heapy or the wider company.

The company also emphasised its record of zero cancellations during the past few weeks, attributing its success to a “proactive recruitment strategy”.

Read the full story:

Jet2 denies ‘Lazy Brits’ comments attributed to CEO Steve Heapy

‘Reports being circulated are categorically not the views of Mr Heapy or our proudly UK-based company’ said the airline

Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 14:06

Eurocontrol says 2019 level of flying will not return until 2024

Aviation in Europe will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to Eurocontrol.

The pan-European air-traffic control service predicts the continent’s skies will be crossed by 9.5 million flights in 2022 – corresponding to 85 per cent of 2019 levels.

The figure shows a 4 per cent drop compared with the previous forecast, “largely as a result of the Omicron variant’s impact on the first quarter”.

In 2023, 10.6 million flights are expected, a 5 per cent shortfall on 2019.

But Eurocontrol says: “There are still significant risks surrounding the forecast, not least as a result of rapidly-evolving events.”

Its risk register includes:

  1. Higher inflation and greater uncertainty triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “A longer period of conflict with bigger disruptions to energy markets would translate into a bigger hit to the global economic expansion. A further deterioration of the economic situation is a downside risk.”
  2. Volatility in oil prices: “It is uncertain how the airlines will be able to pass the fuel price spikes to travellers in a market recovering from the numerous Covid-19 lockdowns. The risk of fallout for the airline industry is a downside risk.”
  3. Unexpected future closure of airspace. “We currently assume that the Ukrainian and Russian airspaces remain closed till the end of the horizon (2024).”
Simon Calder3 June 2022 12:48

Pressure grows for Brexit rules to be eased for aviation industry

One of the UK’s most senior travel industry figures has added to growing calls for post-Brexit rules excluding most EU workers to be eased.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Britain’s second-biggest holiday company, Jet2, said that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has contributed to the chronic shortage of staff at airports and on airlines.

He told the BBC: “Brexit has taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people out of the employment market and that undoubtedly is having an impact.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency and a travel industry advocate, told The Independent: “Up to a third of EU workers can’t get into the UK even if they wanted to, due to the change in immigration policy.”

Ministers have told industry leaders that the Shortage Occupations list – which offers a visa route to a wider range of EU citizens – will not be extended to cover airports and airlines. At present the list includes health and care workers, vets, engineers and scientists.

Brexiteers have pointed to problems at airports outside the UK. On Twitter, Martin Burrow wrote: “This is untrue, many airports in EU such as Dublin and [Amsterdam] Schiphol are having huge issues as well – did they also leave the EU?”

Passengers queued for hours last weekend for security checks at the airports serving the Irish and Dutch capitals.

Simon Calder3 June 2022 12:25

Eurostar passengers greeted by Beefeaters and ‘Lizzini’ cocktails at St Pancras

Despite Eurostar delays over the past 24 hours, the rail operator is still putting on a right royal show for arrivals in London this jubilee weekend.

“As thousands of passengers arrive by Eurostar to enjoy the jubilee celebrations, they are greeted at London St Pancras by beefeaters and a ‘Welcome to London’ arch as well as crowns to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 70 year reign,” reported the rail firm.

“Arriving passengers are encouraged to post pictures of themselves at the arch on social media with the #TravelLikeAQueen to be in with a chance of winning a luxury stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.”

Eurostar customers can also use their Eurostar ticket to receive a 10 per cent discount at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s restaurants and bars, including on a Queen-themed cocktail, the “Lizzini II”.

“Passengers can alight the train and head straight to Booking Office 1869 for a Jubilee themed cocktail, Lizzini II, inspired by the classic Bellini dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II,” said Eurostar.

Eurostar’s London Jubilee display (Eurostar)

Lucy Thackray3 June 2022 11:42

British Airways cancellations push up air fares

With more than 120 cancellations of British Airways short-haul domestic and European flights today, fares on remaining services have soared.

The difference between BA and other airlines is that the cancellations are usually made weeks ahead, which means (a) you don’t get any compensation but (b) you’ve got time to make other arrangements. However, it also reduces availability.

With five of the nine daily round-trips between London Heathrow and Amsterdam cancelled on Friday, the cheapest one-way ticket on the 231-mile link is £440.

The lunchtime flight from Oslo to London Gatwick on the budget airline Norwegian has one seat remaining at £352 for a two-hour flight.

BA cancelled two of the three departures from the Norwegian capital to London Heathrow.

Read the full story:

Simon Calder3 June 2022 11:19

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