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UK flight cancellations hit the headlines: the causes are complex…

Premium Analysis

After meeting UK airline, airport and ground handling executives on 1-Jun-2020, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the industry should have been preparing for a surge in passenger demand following two years of travel closures. Media headlines, especially in the UK, have highlighted flight cancellations and chaotic airport scenes due to staff shortages as aviation moves towards its summer peak.

Europe seat numbers are up by +91% since late Jan-2022 and +50% since mid Mar-2022. UK seat numbers are up by +174% and +61% respectively. Aviation executives planned this capacity increase, so why have they not recruited enough staff to deliver it without cancellations?

A key factor is the three to six-month lead time for recruitment, training and – crucially – security clearance (controlled by governments). However, it was really only when all UK travel restrictions ended less than three months ago that recruitment could begin to ramp up with certainty.

Supply chain problems, Brexit and high staff turnover in ground services have added to the challenges. Nevertheless, flight cancellation rates have been at low single digit percentages.

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