Gatwick airport has announced plans to limit the growth in flights during the summer holiday period, in an attempt to reduce delays and cancellations which have plagued UK airports in recent months.
The move follows a review which found that “a number of companies based at Gatwick are, and will continue to, operate with a severe lack of staff resources over the summer holiday period”.
Gatwick said that if this issue was not addressed passengers would continue to experience “an unreliable and potentially poor standard of service, including more queues, delays and last-minute cancellations”.
The south London airport said that it wanted passengers to “have certainty this summer”, and as a result is “temporarily moderating its rate of growth for July and August by putting in place a gradually increasing capacity level at the airport, which aligns its growth trajectory with airlines and ground handler’s resource capabilities”.
In practice this means a capacity limit of 825 flights per day during July (up from the 800 per day that operated over the Jubilee weekend), and then 850 per day in August. The BBC reports that these numbers compare to 900 flights per day operating in previous years.
Gatwick said that the move would “allow airlines to fly and manage more predictable and reliable flight programmes for the rest of the peak school summer holiday period”, and ensure passengers “experience a more reliable and better standard of service”.
The airport added that the capacity limits would benefit ground handling companies in particular, which have struggled to cope with soaring demand amid staff shortages and lengthy vetting processes for new employees.
But Gatwick also said that “It remains imperative that each airline also reviews its operational capabilities and puts flight schedules in place that are both realistic and aligned with available crew and ground handling resources”.
This week The Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a joint letter urging carriers to cancel flights for July and August to avoid further travel disruption over the summer.
The Guardian reports that Easyjet – Gatwick’s biggest carrier – would be “reviewing the details” of the changes to capacity numbers at the airport.
Commenting on the news Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick airport, said:
“Gatwick prepared well for the restart of international travel by successfully reopening our South Terminal and we have now successfully recruited 400 new colleagues to help us process passengers quickly through security this summer.
“We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers this summer, and while more newly recruited staff will start work in coming weeks, we know it will be a busy summer.
“However, it is clear that during the Jubilee week a number of companies operating at the airport struggled in particular, because of staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers – and also our airlines – to better match their flying programmes with their available resources.
“As has already been the case, the vast majority of flights over the summer will operate as normal, and the steps taken today mean that our passengers can expect a more reliable and better standard of service, while also improving conditions for staff working at the airport.
“I am immensely grateful to all our staff for their tireless work over the last few months to get the airport back up and running, and for helping get passengers away on their travels.”