British Airways (BA) is cutting 10,300 flights between August and October in an effort to pre-emptively reduce last-minute cancellations. The airline removed the flights as part of the government’s airport slot amnesty, a measure to help airlines to reduce their schedules to more manageable levels. The cancellations affect BA’s flights from Heathrow, Gatwick, and London City Airports.
Staff Shortages Prompt Cancellations
Since the pandemic, the industry has suffered severe staffing shortages at a time when demand for air travel is quickly increasing. Consequently, airlines have been unable to operate the schedules they set for themselves, leading to a spate of last-minute cancellations.
British Airways has been one of the worst culprits, for a time cancelling around 100 flights daily. Following the latest announcement, BA will have removed nearly 30,000 flights from its schedule between April and October of this year.
The Government Steps in to Help Airlines
The aviation industry’s failure to adequately address disruptions has led the government to introduce measures to support airlines and avoid further chaos. One such measure is the airport “slot amnesty”, which is the reason British Airways is cancelling so many flights at once.
Airport slots are allocated times when an aircraft can take off and land on the runway. Slots are highly valuable assets, and airlines must use their slots a certain number of times each season to keep hold of them (some might recall the pandemic ‘ghost flights‘ scandal – yes, this was to do with slots).
The government has given airlines a short window in which they can hand back summer slots that they aren’t confident they’ll be able to operate. Airlines who take advantage of this scheme won’t lose their slots, even though they cannot use them. British Airways has used the scheme to consolidate its schedule, resulting in mass cancellations.
One Day Left of Slot Amnesty
The deadline for the Department of Transport’s slot amnesty is this Friday, so we may see more airlines cancel big blocks of flights as they take advantage of the scheme. Though the mass cancellations will inconvenience passengers in the short term as they have to rebook flights, they will hopefully reap benefits this summer by reducing last-minute cancellations.
BA said the flexibility afforded it by the amnesty meant it could “further reduce our schedule and consolidate some of our quieter services so that we can protect as many of our holiday flights as possible.”
Adding, “while most of our flights are unaffected and the majority of customers will get away as planned, we don’t underestimate the impact this will have and we’re doing everything we can to get their travel plans back on track.”
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