Fears exaggerated disruption reports will damage customer confidence

Industry figures fear exaggerated reports of travel disruption could damage customer confidence as airlines struggle to fulfil schedules.

The Times newspaper earlier this week linked Passport Office delays to flight cancellations and warned “shambles threatens holidays”, while agents highlighted the challenges of rebooking cancelled flights.

Arron Mitchell, director of Gloucester agency Resfeber, said: “It’s the fear of having a holiday cancelled we hear now. Trying to rebook another destination last minute costs hundreds if not thousands of pounds more than a year ago. Customers are asking us to avoid easyJet and British Airways due to the press attention on cancellations.”

Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel, agreed: “The biggest issue is rescheduled flights. All the carriers are making changes. Some of it you can understand, but it’s painful.”

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We’ve reduced our schedule slightly. But these are pre-planned cancellations – a small proportion a day.” Travel Weekly understands BA is cancelling 20-30 return flights daily, notifying passengers up to three weeks in advance.

Of The Times story, the spokesperson said: “People have decided on a narrative that travel will be in chaos for the next year. It’s misleading. Eighteen months ago, we were cancelling 1,200 flights a day.”

An easyJet spokesperson said: “We plan to operate our normal summer schedule – about 1,700 flights a day. Any adjustments to the flying programme in April were made in advance and customers informed of their options, the majority of which were provided with same-day alternative flights.”

A leading airline source said: “Every summer there are ‘Airports in meltdown’ and ‘Worst day for travel’ headlines, but it’s an exceptional situation. The industry was dormant for two years. Now demand is extremely high for the capacity in the system.

“There was a perfect storm of issues pre-Easter. None of us were expecting Covid restrictions to disappear so quickly – no one is complaining about that, but no one anticipated it. Recruitment is a challenge and that is exacerbated by the time it takes for security clearance.

“The government decision on slot-use almost compelled airlines to reintroduce their full schedules. And Heathrow Terminal 4 is still not back in operation. These things together mean the system has been stretched.”

The government has required carriers use slots 70% of the time this summer.

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