As we know, the aviation industry is no stranger to flight disruption. During the Covid pandemic, flight disruption was due to government restrictions from countries worldwide reducing foreign travel. To make matters worse, however, when governments lifted travel restrictions, there was a surge in flight demand. However, layoffs during the pandemic when demand was less, there were now staff shortages, meaning that airports and airlines could not keep up with demand. As a result, there was a lot of congestion at airports, leading to flight disruption. There were mass flight delays and cancellations at airports around the world.
London’s Heathrow Airport in the UK and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands introduced flight restrictions to ease European congestion. In the US and Canada, congestion led to a great deal of flight disruption over the Independence Day weekend. Airlines did, however, adapt to this to a certain extent. British Airways, easyJet, and Tui, for example, took the initiative and reduced their flights.
The flight disruption during and after the pandemic did not end there. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year caused a lot of flight disruption, particularly in Europe. The attack forced the grounding of many planes, including Ukraine’s flagship carrier, Ukrainian International Airlines. Flights have also had to be heavily restricted and rerouted in those areas as there is a no-fly zone extending from Ukraine into Russia.
More recently, flight disruption has occurred due to natural and manufactured disasters. As we know, Storm Elliot, which hit the US back in December, caused mass flight delays and cancellations in the US. The storm also affected the financial bottom line of aircraft carriers such as Southwest Airlines, which incurred a loss in the fourth quarter of last year. The fires that broke out more recently on the island of Maui in the US state of Hawaii also caused some disruption.
On Monday 28th August, failure of the UK’s air traffic system has led to a high level of flight disruption across the UK which left thousands of passengers stranded in the UK and abroad. More than a quarter of all UK flights had to be cancelled as a result of a fault with National Air Traffic Services, which runs air traffic control in the UK. Flight disruption was more severe at London’s Heathrow followed by London Gatwick and then Manchester. Willie Walsh the head of the IATA (International Air Transport Association) called the failure unacceptable, and the incident is to be investigated by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.
As one can see, flight disruption due to natural and manufactured causes is commonplace. The aviation industry has had to deal with the pandemic and ensuing government restrictions for an extended period. However, even after lifting restrictions, more natural issues, such as Storm Elliot, and manufactured, such as the war in Ukraine, have resulted in continued flight disruption. We have to wait to see how this progresses.