BRUSSELS – British airline, EasyJet has been forced to cancel 1,700 flights during the peak summer holiday season as the ensuing travel chaos in Europe gets near.
The airline indicated that it had been forced to act in response to the consequences of air traffic control (ATC) strikes in Europe and the knock-on effects of the closure of airspace due to the Russia-Ukraine war; it canceled the flights scheduled from July to September this year.
The carrier denied the perception that the cancellation was due to staff shortages as has been the case last year after the COVID pandemic.
It said it would mostly consolidate some services to and from Gatwick Airport, its busiest operation, between July and September in an effort to eradicate the threat of disruption to its customers’ holiday plans; the airline explained that Gatwick flights had been most exposed to strikes in France.
Meanwhile, Ryanair, which has pinned blame on the air traffic controllers’ action for disruption to 1.1 million passengers, has previously called for the European Commission to intervene to protect services.
It bears mentioning that the canceled easyJet flights represent 2% of its summer flight schedule, affecting up to 180,000 customers
“We are currently operating up to around 1,800 flights and carrying around 250,000 customers per day, with more crew and pilots flying than ever before and like all airlines, we review our flights on an ongoing basis,” a spokesperson for the carrier said.
Besides, Eurocontrol has stated that the whole aviation industry is seeing challenging conditions this summer with more constrained air space due to the war in Ukraine resulting in unprecedented ATC delays, as well as further potential ATC strike action.
“We have therefore made some pre-emptive adjustments to our programme consolidating a small number of flights at Gatwick, where we have multiple daily frequencies, in order to help mitigate these external challenges on the day of travel for our customers and we continue to operate around over 90,000 flights over this period,” the spokesperson said.
The cancellation comes as Industrial action has already started at airports in France, the UK, and Switzerland, impacting passengers using Ryanair Holdings Plc, Air France-KLM, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG but the bigger crisis is that staff at Europe’s air route coordination body may walk off the job leading to delays and further cancellations as a result.
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, or Eurocontrol, stated that a union representing workers at its network manager operations center was threatening to observe strikes that could last over a period of six months.
Though the date of action has not been revealed yet, Eurocontrol confirmed it was in negotiations with Union Syndicale Bruxelles.
The severity of the impending crisis could be gauged from the fact that the operations center manages traffic along the continent’s busy air routes and works with airports and national air traffic control bodies to coordinate capacity and ensure a seamless flow of flights even at times of peak activity.
Quantitatively, it supervises 10 million flights a year and receives 96,000 messages per day.