Exploring the connection between an increase in flights and cancellations in the UK, April 2022.
Major UK airlines including easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways have cancelled hundreds of flights over recent days, with more expected throughout this week. Select UK airports including Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow are also reporting longer queues at security and increasing overall delays. So, why the disruption?
EasyJet and British Airways have reported high levels of staff absence driven by Covid-19 and staff self-isolation. Whilst it is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate when testing positive for Coronavirus in the UK, it is likely that most individuals testing positive are continuing to do so. Whilst this is nothing new for airlines, it does come at a time of a rapid increase in flights, driven by the recovery from the pandemic and ramp up towards the summer season.
The issue of staff absence is coupled with delays in processing applications for new staff to replace those lost during the pandemic. The big issue is time. Ground and air crews require appropriate security vetting, clearance, and document checks, which can often take weeks to be approved. Training is also a delaying factor, with airline professions requiring training that can take from weeks to years (around 2 years for pilots). These factors combine to result in a testing time for the aviation industry as it seeks to recover to pre-pandemic volumes.
27 March marks the start of the airline summer schedules, meaning an immediate increase in capacity to handle Easter demand and the start of the summer holiday season. Aviation intelligence from IBA's InsightIQ shows that 54,000 flights departed from UK airports in March 2022, representing a 35% increase from the previous month and the highest since before the pandemic. April is likely to be even higher. We expect summer 2022 to be the busiest since 2019 when over 100,000 flights a month were departing from UK airports.
Airlines and airports need to resolve their staffing issues quickly if they are to fulfil the buoyant demand from summer travellers.
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