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Holidaymakers face travel chaos amid delays, cancellations and strike threats

·3-min read
Britain's travel sector is facing more disruption amid delays and cancellations. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA via Getty
Britain's travel sector is facing more disruption amid delays and cancellations. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA via Getty

UK holidaymakers have been hit with more travel disruption amid flight cancellations as British Airways check-in staff threaten to strike ahead of the peak summer holiday period.

Travellers have expressed their anger in response to a wave of cancellations and delays over the weekend and on Monday, with lengthy queues forming at some of the UK’s main airports, including Bristol, Manchester and Gatwick.

Passengers at a number of airports have also missed flights due to hold ups at security checkpoints.

Budget carrier easyJet (EZJ.L), TUI (TUI.L) and BA all grounded services as the half-term school break starts for many children in England.

On Friday, Europe's largest budget airline announced it would cut an additional 240 flights up until 6 June, with around 42 last minute cancellations made on Tuesday morning.

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So far, Britain's flag carrier BA has cancelled some 100 domestic and European flights to and from its main hub, London Heathrow, however passengers were given several weeks’ notice before their departures.

EasyJet rival Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) also grounded flights to Palermo, Athens and Podgorica at short notice.

German holiday giant TUI either cancelled or pushed back 43 services between Friday and Sunday.

TUI apologised on Tuesday for the disruption over the past few days, adding due to "ongoing challenges" a "small number" of flights, around 200, from Manchester airport would be cancelled until 30 June.

Shares in easyJet were down 4%, while TUI fell 2.6% and Wizz Air slumped 6.5% on Tuesday. Shares in BA owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L) dipped 4.5%.

The Prospect union, which represents workers across air traffic control, airports and in aviation engineering, warned things could get worse before they get better.

"Unions warned the government and aviation employers repeatedly that slashing staff through the crisis would lead to problems with the ramp-up post-pandemic," said Garry Graham, deputy general secretary at Prospect union.

He added: "Now we see staff shortages across the industry, with huge reliance on overtime to get by day-to-day.

"In many areas, like air traffic control, overtime is only a temporary sticking plaster. So, things could get worse this summer before they get better."

The cancellations pile more pressure onto a struggling sector that is facing additional hurdles as BA check-in staff threaten to stage a walkout amid a pay row.

The move, aimed to cause maximum disruption during the summer holidays, comes as union leaders say workers have missed out on wage hikes that brings pay in line with pre-COVID levels.

Bosses at trade union, Unite claim BA has restored management pay to pre-pandemic levels, but the carrier is refusing to reverse a 10% pay cut imposed on employees during the crisis.

Some 500 workers will reportedly be balloted between 7 June and 27 June ahead of a potential strike.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "A strike by our members will make an immediate impact on the service to customers so I urge BA to get a grip and restore these workers’ pay immediately.

"British Airways used the cover of COVID to brutally cut members’ pay. BA has now reversed the pay cuts imposed on management but refuses to do this for our members. This is disgraceful. Unite will not allow our members to be treated as a second-class workforce."

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