EasyJet and British Airways have been forced to cancel flights due to staff shortages, just as passenger numbers rise for the school holidays.
EasyJet has cancelled more than 200 flights since Friday due to high numbers of Covid infections among staff, despite placing standby crew on its rota over the weekend. Sixty-two flights that were scheduled for today have also been cancelled.
British Airways cancelled around 100 flights, although only five were directly related to staff absence, the company said. It said its aim was to keep cancellations to high frequency routes so passengers could board alternative flights.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics last week showed that as many as one in 13 people were infected with coronavirus – the highest recorded by its random household survey since April 2020.
Covid restrictions including mask wearing, compulsory testing and the requirement to self-isolate with a positive result were dropped in England on 24 February, and access to free lateral flow tests ended for the general public on 1 April.
Instead, under the government’s Living with Covid plan, anyone with symptoms such as a high temperature or respiratory issues is recommended – but not required – to stay at home until they feel well again.
Both Manchester and Heathrow airports have experienced long queues due to the requirement to make passenger checks for certain destinations and high traveller numbers, a situation exacerbated by the staff shortages.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, told the BBC at the weekend that the industry needed to recruit “tens of thousands “ of staff now that Covid travel restrictions have largely been removed.
“We’ve started this process some time ago, but actually with that scale of numbers, particularly in a tight labour market, it is going to take us some time unfortunately,” she said.
Additionally, the Port of Dover experienced delays at the weekend as part of the ongoing impact of sackings at P&O Ferries.
The company had planned to recruit cheaper agency staff to replace the workers that had been fired, but is yet to be given clearance to do so.
“The ongoing impact of the lack of any P&O services continues to affect remaining ferry operations with the commencement of the Easter getaway period,” the Port of Dover said in a statement.