Gatwick tackles disruption with ‘decisive action’ to limit peak summer flights

Gatwick insists the “vast majority” of flights will operate as normal over the summer peak despite imposing restrictions on the number of services in a bid to limit further delays and cancellations.

The UK’s second busiest airport is taking “decisive action” following disruption over a “challenging” Jubilee bank holiday weekend and in the face of staff shortages.

The number of daily flights will be limited to 825 in July and 850 in August, meaning as many as 10% or about 100 flights a day will be removed from schedules.

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A Gatwick statement said: “This action will then allow airlines to fly and manage more predictable and reliable flight programmes for the rest of the peak school summer holiday period.”

It will enable the single runway airport to provide a “more reliable and better standard” of service to passengers.

“The move follows a significant and rapid upturn in air traffic levels at Gatwick that – during a busy but challenging Jubilee holiday week – saw c.800 flights use the runway on average each day,” Gatwick said.

Advantage Travel Centres chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said described the move as a “pragmatic solution” to enable airlines to give passengers as advance notice as possible of flight changes.

Calling for certainty, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We need airlines and airports to have a very open discussion about what can be operated. It’s advanced warning that we really need.”

A review by the airport found that a number of companies are and will continue to operate with a “severe lack of staff resources” over the summer holiday period.

“If not addressed, this issue would see airport passengers continuing to experience an unreliable and potentially poor standard of service, including more queues, delays and last-minute cancellations,” Gatwick warned.

“By carefully controlling and gradually increasing the maximum number of flights over time – until the end of August – the airport aims to help both its airlines and their ground handling companies improve the service they provide by reducing the number of flights they need to manage.

“In particular, this will benefit ground handling companies, who are employed by the airlines and are responsible for managing check in areas, turning aircraft round on the airfield ready for departure, and loading and delivering baggage back to passengers.”

Gatwick added 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”.

The West Sussex airport insisted: “The vast majority of scheduled flights this summer will operate as normal, and the move to carefully manage the airport’s declared capacity is designed to provide passengers with a better, more predictable level of service.”

Gatwick has already handled more than 10 million passengers in the first six months of the year.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate 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.”

EasyJet said: “We are now reviewing the details to assess what this means for easyJet’s Gatwick operation.

“Given the high frequencies of our services to and from Gatwick, we expect to be able to re-accommodate the majority of customers whose flights are affected by the cap.”

The decision by Gatwick came as aviation minister Robert Courts reiterated plans to tackle “unacceptable” UK airport disruption including weekly meetings with aviation sector chief executives and a five-point plan to ensure summer schedules can be delivered.

More: Government resilience group to ‘hold aviation sector to account’

Boss of BA owner blames ministers for airport disruption

Airport workers suffering abuse at work amid disruption

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