STOCK Heathrow Airport
Passengers at Heathrow airport in London. Britain has published a 22-point action plan aimed at improving travel resilience. Image Credit: Reuters

London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports are cancelling more flights as Europe’s travel chaos continues into the summer.

Heathrow asked airlines to cut 30 services on Thursday morning, citing concern that peak passenger numbers would exceed levels it could safely handle. France’s civil aviation authority ordered a 17 per cent reduction in flights from Charles de Gaulle amid a firefighter strike and extended the curbs into Friday.

While the services affected represent only a small portion of the total, the last-minute cancellations add to the turmoil surrounding travel in Europe as staffing shortages upend timetables and labour unrest brews. Passengers at Heathrow complained of chaos in the terminals after the changes were announced only late Wednesday. Some said they weren’t told until arriving at the hub.

Britain separately published what it called a 22-point action plan aimed at improving travel resilience and avoiding a repeat of earlier disruption once schools break up for summer holidays in coming weeks.

The plan urges airlines to further evaluate whether published schedules are realistic and to scrap services where necessary, with their airport slot holdings protected by a recent rule change. Carriers should promptly inform passengers of their rights if things go wrong and pay required compensation in good time.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement that “it’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare”.

In Paris, Thursday’s walkout led to a shutdown of two out of Charles de Gaulle’s four runways between 7am and 2pm local time. Air France canceled 62 flights, while maintaining all long-haul and 90 per cent of short- and medium-haul connections, a spokesman said.

Upheaval at France’s biggest airport will continue on Friday with the same level of flight cancellations and runway closures, when a strike is planned by unions representing a broader swath of workers including security and refueling staff.

Talks between operator Aeroports de Paris and labor representatives are ongoing but have so far failed to reach a wage deal earlier this week, with staff demanding improved working conditions and better compensation to reflect inflation.

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport prior to the coronavirus pandemic, will work with carriers to rebook passengers onto services outside peak hours so that as many as possible can still fly, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The scrapping of flights comes even after British Airways, its biggest carrier, slashed summer capacity 10 per cent to reduce pressure on operations.

“We are working hard to ensure everyone has a smooth journey through Heathrow this summer,” the hub said. “The most important thing is to make sure that all service providers at the airport have enough resources to meet demand.”