UK travellers will need some careful planning to do if they want to travel during summer. Image Credit: AP

London: London Gatwick airport said it will scrap hundreds of flights over the peak summer travel period, hours after Amsterdam’s Schiphol hub took a similar step, as the aviation industry’s staffing crisis deepened.

Gatwick, Britain’s second-busiest airport, will limit airlines to 825 flights a day in July and 850 a day in August, from a pre-pandemic peak of around 950 services, it said in a statement. Schiphol said late Thursday that passenger numbers will be capped about 20 per cent below usual levels.

The flight reductions at Gatwick aim to ensure “a more reliable and better standard of service” after the airport, whose biggest users are EasyJet and British Airways, suffered a meltdown in operations over the Jubilee holiday week. The hub said a “severe” lack of staff at ground-handling firms and other providers would trigger further delays and last minute cancellations should capacity remain at normal levels.

Travel demand has surged since Covid restrictions were lifted, rebounding at such a pace that it’s resulted in an unprecedented labour crunch from pilots to cabin crew and ground-handling staff, worsened by the effects of steep job cuts made at the height of the pandemic. Gatwick’s announcement comes after Schiphol said passenger numbers would be capped at 67,500 per day at the busiest times in July, down by around 13,500 on average.

“By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers - and also our airlines - to better match their flying programs with their available resources,” Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said. “We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers. While more newly recruited staff will start work in the coming weeks, we know it will be a busy summer.”

On Thursday, a disabled person died at Gatwick as he was taking an escalator, after waiting for airline staff to get a wheelchair, according to media reports. Gatwick Airport said staff shortages were not a factor in the incident, and that a member of staff was waiting when the aircraft arrived and was in the process of disembarking three passengers with restricted mobility when the incident occurred. A formal investigation was underway and the airport declined to comment further.