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Aviation Watchdog Voices Concern on Travel Issues

Indians at UK - Aviation Watchdog Voices

The UK’s aviation watchdog has written to airports and airlines to express concern over the impact of staff shortages on international travel. Thousands of people heading abroad in the run-up to Easter, some of them for the first time in two years, have faced long queues, delays and cancellations.

The Civil Aviation Authority said late-notice cancellations and “excessive” delays could hit consumer confidence. Airports blame recruitment issues and Covid-linked absences for the delays. Staff sickness caused by coronavirus has seen airlines including Easyjet and British Airways axe dozens of flights.

Indians at UK - Aviation Watchdog Voices

The passengers described scenes of “chaos” after several missed their flights, amid warnings that emergency services staff could be drafted in to help tackle the problems. The disruption led to the airport’s managing director, Karen Smart, announcing that she would stand down. But in a letter, Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), warned late notice cancellations and “excessive” delays at airports were not only distressing for consumers but could affect confidence just when passengers were returning to flying. He said that while firms had been working hard to recruit staff ahead of the rush for spring and summer holidays, it was clear this had not always happened fast enough to cope with the increased passenger travel.

Mr Moriarty stressed it was important airlines were fixing their schedules in a way that was deliverable given their available staff, with contingencies for staff sickness including from coronavirus. “Where capacity is unavoidably restricted”, he said, planning was needed to identify problems early so pre-emptive cancellations could be made.

“At a minimum” passengers should be given notice so that they do not travel to airports unnecessarily, he added. The CAA boss also reminded airlines that they were legally required to inform passengers of their rights when flights were disrupted, to provide care and assistance during the disruption and to offer a choice of refund or alternative travel.

Some schools have already broken up for Easter – the first school holiday since the end of the pandemic travel restrictions – and that has sparked a rise in demand for foreign trips. The Airport Operators Association (AOA), which represents most UK airports, said the delays and long queues were down to airports struggling to recruit enough staff to cope with resurgent demand for travel – plus other factors such as Covid documentation checks and customers being unfamiliar with airport processes.

ABTA, a trade association for tour operators and travel agents, said in a statement its members had reported bookings for this year were approaching 2019 levels. “Our own research shows an increasing number of people have a foreign holiday booked for the next 12 months, up a third when compared to six months ago,” it added.

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