Travel chaos as Covid staff shortages ground flights

Travel chaos as Covid staff shortages ground flights and wreck Christmas plans after cancellations around the world

  • Airlines blame staff shortages caused by Covid for masses of cancelled flights
  • Travellers queued for hours at Manchester Airport for British Airways planes 
  • BA had to cancel 50 of its scheduled flights yesterday from Heathrow Airport 

Thousands of travellers have seen their Christmas plans ruined after Covid chaos triggered a wave of flight cancellations.

Airlines blamed staff shortages caused by coronavirus illness and isolation requirements for the mayhem on what is usually one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

British Airways was yesterday forced to cancel 50 flights at Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport.

Travellers also complained of ‘utter carnage’ at Manchester Airport as they queued for hours to check in for the British flag carrier’s flights.

More than 7,000 flights were cancelled worldwide over the Christmas weekend, with US and Chinese airlines most severely affected.

More than 7,000 flights were cancelled worldwide over the Christmas weekend, with US and Chinese airlines most severely affected

China Eastern was yesterday forced to cancel more than 400 flights, while Air China cancelled 193 services. Across the world, more than 2,000 flights were cancelled yesterday on top of the 5,100 cancellations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Data recorded by the FlightAware aviation tracking website showed that 33 flights leaving Heathrow were cancelled yesterday, with 25 delayed.

A further 29 flights due to arrive at the airport were also cancelled, with 28 incoming flights delayed.

Airlines had remained bullish in the run-up to Christmas, saying that they had yet to see a significant impact on services because of the Omicron variant sweeping the UK.

Despite the problems, the UK’s busiest airports have been operating fairly smoothly, with demand lower than usual for the festive period because of Covid restrictions. EasyJet cancelled flights to Munich, Berlin, Bordeaux, Paris and Nice after France and Germany introduced tougher entry requirements.

The airline said it had increased the numbers of standby crew and pilots on duty across the UK and Europe to ensure that its flights go ahead.

Gatwick, the UK’s second-busiest airport, said that it had only had three cancellations out of 215 flights yesterday. While coronavirus has been blamed for many of the worldwide cancellations, severe weather in the US has also contributed.

As usual, no trains ran on Boxing Day in the UK apart from a small number of airport transfer services.

Travellers had already been warned to expect severe disruption on rail networks over the entire festive period. Operators told customers to book on to earlier services after Omicron led to widespread staff shortages.

In the days before Christmas, some of the country’s busiest operators were forced to cancel one in 20 services – and more disruption is expected in the coming days.

CrossCountry, which runs services between England and Scotland, said it had been forced to cancel dozens of services on New Year’s Eve because of a strike. Up to eight operators have warned of last-minute cancellations over the festive break.

A BA spokesman: ‘We are sorry that we have had to cancel a number of flights due to operational constraints.

‘Our teams are working extremely hard and we have upgraded later services to larger aircraft where possible to get customers to their destinations as quickly as possible.’

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