Government blames airlines for continued travel chaos as more than 150 UK flights cancelled

ITV News Reporter Hannah Miller reports on how thousands of would-be holidaymakers are experiencing disruption to their travel plans.

Travel companies should have been more prepared ahead of the surge in holiday demand following the lifting of Covid restrictions, the government has said.

Airport chaos continued on the eve of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend on Wednesday with 150 UK flights cancelled across UK airports.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed travel firms have “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver”.

Dominic Raab told ITV News Mr Shapps had been "counselling and engaging" with the travel sector for "some time" about the need to hire staff to cope with the post-Covid holiday resurgence.

Thousands of workers in the aviation industry were let go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed, that, they say, are delayed by government red tape.

Consumer group Which? warned the “blame game” over flight disruption was “no help” to passengers.

"You need to have the planning in place to deal with your customers" - Dominic Raab blames the travel companies for not heeding advice from the Department of Transport

EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh.

British Airways axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow, but the airline says passengers were given advance notice.

Tui Airways is continuing to cancel six daily flights at Manchester Airport, which represents a quarter of its schedule.

Thousands of employees were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic as restrictions meant many people did not want to travel overseas.

The government insists the aviation industry is “responsible for making sure they have enough staff”.

"I think it's clear that there's been a lack of planning and a lack of preparation for the resurgent demand that was not just predictable, but predicted," Mr Raab tod ITV News.

Tui has cancelled a quarter of its flights from Manchester Airport. Credit: PA

Trade unions and the Labour Party accused the government of failing to provide enough support to the aviation sector.

In response to the row over recruitment red tape, Mr Raab said the "regulatory requirements were not new" and said the government had tried to ease them.

"I think, fundamentally, this is about planning preparation, and not heeding the advice that came from DoT, going on months now, that this will come, the time will come - it's a good thing - and you need to have the preparation the planning in place to deal with your customers."

All remaining coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.

Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the aviation industry did not know when restrictions would be completely removed or how much flying would be possible this summer.

It added that “the vast majority of the many tens of thousands of UK-departing flights a week” are operating as scheduled.

In a statement, British Airways said: "It’s been a challenging period for the entire industry and at British Airways we're completely focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience. We took action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund." 

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Tui said in a statement: “We would like to apologise to our customers who have experienced flight disruption in recent days and understand that they have been looking forward to these holidays for a long time.

"The May half-term holidays are always an incredibly busy period with many customers looking to get away, and this year is no different.

"Unfortunately, due to ongoing challenges in our operation, we have had to announce a small number of planned cancellations between now and 30 June from Manchester Airport only. We are directly contacting all impacted customers in departure date order and they will automatically receive a full refund.

"We can reassure our customers that the remainder of our flying programme is expected to operate as planned.

"We’d like to apologise again for the inconvenience caused and we thank customers for their understanding and patience during this time.”