The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has written to airlines and airports urging them to address recent delays and cancellations through better planning and cooperation.

As detailed in several threads on our forum, airlines including British Airways and Easyjet have been affected by delays at airports including Manchester.

Much of the disruption has been caused by staff shortages as airlines and airports ramp up their operations following the easing of travel restrictions, and the letter from the CAA’s chief executive Richard Moriarty warned that “instances of late notice cancellations and excessive delays at airports are not just distressing for affected consumers but have the potential to impact confidence levels across the industry, at just the point when passengers are returning to flying”.

“The last two years have been very challenging for the industry and the large fall in traffic volumes has led to many colleagues leaving the industry,” said Moriarty.

“We are aware that many of you are having to recruit large numbers of new colleagues to provide a good service to passengers as traffic volumes return this Spring and Summer. We know that you are working hard to recruit these new colleagues, but it is clear that this has not always happened sufficiently quickly to cope with the increased passenger travel in recent days.

“Given the consequences for passengers of cancelled and disrupted journeys I encourage you to do all you can to ensure that you have the necessary level of appropriately trained and cleared staff resources in place.”

The letter also set out the CAA’s expectation “that airlines and airports will work closely together to manage the resourcing challenges, whatever the cause, to ensure that the required capacity levels are achieved, and disruption is kept to a minimum”.

“We appreciate that it is not always possible to anticipate all the challenges that may arise on any particular day, but where capacity constraints can be predicted in advance, we would expect co-operation between all parties to determine the best outcomes for consumers.”

Moriarty said that airlines must set schedules “on a basis that is deliverable given available staff (including contractors), and has resilience for staff sickness, including from Covid”, adding that “Where capacity is unavoidably restricted, we expect this co-operative planning to identify problems sufficiently in advance so as to allow pre-emptive cancellations”.

He said that a minimum passengers should be given notice so that they do not travel to airports unnecessarily, and reminded airlines of their obligations to pay compensation where flights are cancelled with less than 14 days’ notice, including where this has been caused by airline staffing issues.

Moriarty recognised that “extraordinary circumstances” may apply where flights are cancelled at the request of the airport, but warned that “Where such issues are ongoing, and cancellations are repeatedly being requested by airports, this could be a failure of planning and co-operation, which may have consequences for whether compensation is payable”.

To read the letter in full, click here.