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Govt unveils aviation plan to help industry avoid do-over of Bank Holiday mayhem

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow Airport this a.m. (Souce: andy Mossack)

The UK Government has unveiled its 22-point aviation plan to help the industry avoid travel disruption moving forward. 

The strategy – which comes just as thousands of Britons get ready for the summer break – is aimed at avoiding the mayhem seen at airports during the Easter and half-term breaks.

“Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions,” transport secretary Grant Shapps said today, after he was accused of being “missing in action” during the Bank Holiday chaos.

“While it’s never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we’ve been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.”

Under the plan, airlines will receive an “amnesty” period to give back their airport summer slots if they are not confident they will be able to operate it.

Initially announced on 21 June, the “amnesty” will help avoid last-minute cancellations, allowing passengers to find alternative travel solutions with time to spare. 

The government has also pledged to reduce the time it takes for new staff to get the security clearance needed to operate at airports. 

The Department for Transport (DfT) said today it will allow greater flexibility over background checks, allowing employers to use an HRMC letter to verify five years of employment checks.

Delays in clearing staff have been pinpointed by the industry as one of the main reasons being the disruption. 

“The complexity is you need the last five years worth of referencing and as we know lots of people have taken multiple roles [over the last two years],” Sophie Deckers, easyJet’s chief operating officer, told a BEIS committee earlier this month. 

Under the current system, airlines need to ask individual candidates to get their references from their previous employers, contributing to the creation of delays. 

To give passengers all the information they need to enforce their rights, the DfT has come up with a new aviation passenger charter. 

“The action we’ve taken to support airlines and airports isn’t just about minimising disruption this summer, but helping the sector recruit the staff it needs for the long term,” added aviation minister Robert Courts. 

The plan received a warm welcome from the industry, with many stakeholders reiterating their willingness to find a long-term solution to the issue.

“We will work alongside the government and the wider industry to help deliver a better experience for passengers,” said Civil Aviation Authority’s boss Richard Moriarty while Airlines UK’s chief executive Tim Alderslade said carriers will do everything we can to ensure this summer is a success.”

The plan was announced on the same day Heathrow was lambasted by furious customers after 30 flights were cancelled because the hub was expecting more passengers than it “currently has the capacity to serve.”

British Airways (BA) was among the airlines that was hit the most by the travel chaos. 

The flag carrier was forced to axe more than 650 flights departing in July from Heathrow and Gatwick because of labour shortages. 

The move is impacting 105,000 passengers and popular holiday destinations such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Mallorca. 
BA apologised to customers, telling City A.M. it had “become necessary to make some further reductions,” as the industry continued to “face into the most challenging period in its history.”


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