EasyJet is cutting thousands of flights over the summer, after government orders designed to avoid further travel disruption at airports.
The Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority told airlines last week to review their schedules and ensure flights were deliverable, after post-lockdown staff shortages left airlines and airports unable to keep up with an increase in travel as Covid restrictions lifted.
EasyJet announced on Monday that in response to subsequent caps on flights at two of its biggest airports, London Gatwick and Amsterdam, it was “proactively consolidating” a number of flights to give customers time to review their trips and an offer an opportunity to rebook.
Flights from other airports are also likely to be affected.
“There are challenges across the whole of Europe and in other parts of the network. But that’s something we have to work through … We’ve had outages in Paris, we’ve had challenges at Gatwick, we’ve had challenges in Geneva as well,” the chief executive, Johan Lundgren, told journalists on Monday.
The airline said it could not provide an exact number of the flights it intended to cancel but that it would probably run about 90% of the 160,000 it offered in summer 2019, having previously estimated it would reach 97% of pre-Covid flight capacity between July and September.
That suggests about 11,000 easyJet flights could be scrapped over the coming months.
That is despite an increase in demand, with the number of travellers in April and May this year having risen to seven times the level in 2021.
EasyJet said it expected most customers to be able to rebook on to alternative flights, many of which would be on the same day as they originally planned to travel. The airline also confirmed that customers would be notified as soon as possible about flights it intended to cancel over the coming months.
“The ongoing challenging operating environment has unfortunately continued to have an impact, which has resulted in cancellations,” the Lundgren said.
“Coupled with airport caps, we are taking pre-emptive actions to increase resilience over the balance of summer, including a range of further flight consolidations in the affected airports, giving advance notice to customers and we expect the vast majority to be rebooked on alternative flights within 24 hours.
“We believe this is the right action for us to take so we can deliver for all of our customers over the peak summer period in this challenging environment.”
EasyJet shares fell 3.5% on Monday morning.
The airline’s executives assured that they did not intend to raise prices as a result of the cancelled flights – likely to result in higher demand for fewer seats.
They also said that while the airline was not struggling to hire staff, it had recently turned down about 8,000 applications from EU nationals who were no longer eligible to work for the company in the UK due to Brexit.
“Pre-pandemic we turned down probably about 2% of people for for nationality reasons … and that number is [now] about 35-40%. So, of course the pool is smaller,” Lundgren said.
He also said new recruits were waiting an extra month to receive their official crew identification cards, meaning a process that usually took 10 weeks was now taking 14 weeks.
“They’re fully trained, just basically waiting for the IDs to come through. So it’s more that they’ve been slow to get people into the system, and not so much the fact that we’ve been struggling to recruit. And that has continued to be an ongoing challenge,” the chief executive said.