The UK’s aviation regulator has called on airlines to set “deliverable” flight schedules in the wake of thousands of recent cancellations as a result of staff shortages.

Richard Moriarty, head of the Civil Aviation Authority, told operators that last-minute cancellations and serious delays are not only distressing for travellers “but have the potential to impact confidence levels across the industry”.

Recruitment efforts insufficient

Outlined in a letter, Mr Moriarty said that whilst he was aware that many airlines are undertaking large recruitment drives, it is clear to him that it hasn’t always been undertaken “sufficiently quickly to cope with the increased passenger travel” the industry has experienced in recent days.

“Given the consequences for passengers of cancelled and disrupted journeys, I encourage you to do all you can to ensure that you have the necessary level of appropriately trained and cleared staff resources in place.

It is very important that schedules are set on a basis that is deliverable given available staff, including contractors, and has resilience for staff sickness, including from COVID.”

UK regulators call on airlines to set deliverable flight schedules
British Airways and easyJet have cancelled more than 100 daily flights over the past week, blaming coronavirus-related staff absences and struggles with recruitment. | © Trevor Hannant

Airports must “work closely” with airlines

With travellers at Birmingham, Heathrow and Manchester complaining of long queues and inadequate facilities, Mr Moriarty also called on airports to “work closely” with operators to ensure disruption is minimised wherever possible.

Charlie Cornish, Manchester Airport boss, commented: “The simple fact is that we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.

“Practically, staff shortages mean that we cannot open all the security lanes we need and, at times, this results in longer queues than we want to see.”

In response to the dissatisfaction expressed by travellers, the airport’s managing director, Karen Smart, resigned earlier this week.

Ultimately, it remains in the hands of airlines whether they now adjust their existing flight schedules or continue to hope that staffing shortages abate in time for the busy summer season.

Are airlines to blame for setting undeliverable schedules? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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