British Airways has announced another round of cancellations, axing 10,000 flights to and from Heathrow until the end of March next year as it adapts to the persistent staff shortages that have hit aviation.
The carrier’s decision to shrink its short-haul timetable by 8% comes after the London airport extended the summer’s 100,000 daily cap on passenger numbers by another six weeks until the end of October and asked airlines to sell fewer flights.
Heathrow’s plea came against the backdrop of an arduous post-Covid recovery in which it has struggled to find the staff to meet returning demand from business travellers and tourists, leading to chaos and long queues over Easter, spring half-term and into early summer.
BA, the airport’s largest operator, has already cut tens of thousands of flights over the summer in an attempt to ease the pressure caused by the staffing problems faced by airports and the airline itself.
It also suspended ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow earlier this month as it recalibrated its expectations for the number of planes needed in light of Heathrow’s capacity cap.
The carrier, which is owned by International Airlines Group, said on Monday that it needed to add more cancellations to its roster, continuing a trend that began in May and has been gathering pace as airlines and airports struggle with staff shortages, causing chaos at check-in and baggage services.
BA said that more than 600 return flights to and from Heathrow would be cancelled to 29 October, while the winter schedule, which runs until the end of March, would be cut by 8%.
It said the impact would be “minimal” because there would be alternative same-day flights available on most of the routes affected, but some cancellations would be unavoidable.
“While the vast majority of our customers will travel as planned and we’re protecting key holiday destinations over half-term, we will need to make some further cancellations up to the end of October,” a spokesperson for BA said.
“In addition, we’re giving customers travelling with us this winter notice of some adjustments to our schedule, which will include consolidating some of our short-haul flights to destinations with multiple services. We’ll be offering customers affected by any of these changes an alternative flight with British Airways or another airline or the option of a refund.”
The government has made it easier for airlines to cut their capacity via the introduction of a “slot amnesty”, announced last month. That has allowed BA and others to reduce their operations this year without forfeiting the right to valuable landing slots at Heathrow and other busy airports, which normally have a “use it or lose it” rule.