British Airways ‘proactively’ cutting flights, says transport secretary

Flag-carrier British Airways is continuing to cut back on its flight programme to avoid problems of cancelled departures and disruption for passengers.

Transport minister Grant Shapps met the airline’s chief executive, Sean Doyle, on Tuesday to discuss the problems faced by the airline.

“He told me they are proactively, in advance, slimming down their programme in order to meet the demand,” Shapps told the transport select committee on Wednesday.

More: Grant Shapps calls for P&O Ferries to return £11m of furlough

“He explained the problems were growing pains, in a lot of different directions, very quickly.

“Primarily they are OK with pilots but those on the ground, baggage handlers for example, have been in a very tight employment market.

“We will look for ways to try to assist.”

Shapps was responding to a question from Ben Bradshaw MP, who asked: “BA cancelled nearly 100 flights today in and out of Heathrow. Can you guarantee the British public won’t face a summer of chaos as they did at Easter?”

The minister said he can help with the “bureaucracy” involved with recruiting staff, enabling people to begin training before they have their full security clearance.

A statutory instrument – legislation that does not require an Act of Parliament – will be laid later today.

He described it as a “small Brexit freedom”.

Shapps also said the return of travel was faster than anticipated, thanks to the UK dropping its Covid restrictions quickly earlier this year.

He conceded the point made in the committee’s recent report on aviation that there had been too many changes to Covid rules but said: “In our mitigation, the world was trying to work out how to handle this once-in-100-years event; we had to learn as we went.”

The Financial Times reported that BA will cut flights until the end of June, a month longer than expected.

Doyle told staff on Tuesday that the airline would trim its flight schedules until June “to help inject greater resilience into its operations and make its schedules more reliable”, said the FT.

The airline had previously said it would reduce its schedules until May.

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