Summer holidays face a new threat after British Airways cancelled hundreds of flights until September.
The flagship carrier has culled flights to Miami, Hong Kong and Tokyo for the next four months, raising fears that services to other popular holiday destinations could be cut amid ongoing staff shortages.
BA was already forced to cancel 112 flights to European and Mediterranean destinations on Wednesday, disrupting travel plans of thousands of holidaymakers.
Over Easter hundreds of flights to Europe and the US were cancelled by BA and easyJet due to Covid absences, with firms also struggling to cope with a surge in demand after Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
BA boss Sean Doyle originally told employees in an internal message that flights would be cancelled until the end of next month, partly due to staff shortages.
But yesterday it was reported that the airline is cancelling half of flights between Heathrow and Miami, reducing them to one each way a day from June 4 until September 7.
BA said the cancelled daily flight to and from Miami would be picked up by joint business partner American Airlines, so the same number of daily flights will be going to the US city from Heathrow.
However, some people on Twitter complained the transfer meant they would miss planned onward flights and were no longer sitting with family they were travelling with.
Meanwhile, flights to Hong Kong have been cancelled until September due to ongoing entry restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Flights have also been cancelled to Tokyo until October.
According to the Daily Mail, an email to customers apologised and said: ‘We’ll do everything we can to get you where you need to be.’
Travel experts blamed staff shortages on a rise in Covid cases and struggles to recruit.
As well as Home Office delays for security vetting of flight staff, airlines are reckoning with the loss of thousands of experienced staff who were laid off during the pandemic but have not returned after finding other jobs.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said while these complications are ongoing, BA should be quicker at anticipating what flights it needs to cancel so customers can be told in advance.
Julia Simpson, chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and a former government adviser, added: ‘When you rebuild, there is inevitably going to be some disruption.
‘However the most important thing is that customers are told in advance. As long as you are given plenty of time and alternatives if you are told your flight is cancelled, it’s manageable.’
Passengers whose flights have been axed are entitled to new tickets, but can only get cash compensation if the reason is due to staff sickness or if the cancellation was announced less than two weeks in advance.
British Airways has been contacted for comment.