Heathrow boss warns passengers could be in for 18 MONTHS of misery

Heathrow boss warns passengers could be in for 18 MONTHS of misery as ministers face further pressure to punish airlines for overbooking flights

  • Ministers face growing calls last night to bring in tougher penalties for airlines 
  • MPs called for regulator Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers 
  • CAA has so far taken no action against airlines despite weeks of cancellations

Ministers were facing growing calls last night to bring in tougher penalties for airlines which overbook flights, as the boss of Heathrow warned of 18 months of air disruption.

MPs called for regulator the Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers to crack down on ‘cowboy’ carriers.

The CAA has so far taken no action against airlines despite weeks of cancellations and thousands of passengers being left stranded abroad in recent days. And John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, claimed it ‘will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity’.

He told the Financial Times: ‘What we saw in some airports over the past few weeks is that supply and demand were out of balance… we need to make sure we are planning much better.’

Pictured: Travellers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, (pictured) claimed it ‘will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity’

MPs called for regulator the Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers to crack down on ‘cowboy’ carriers. Pictured: Heathrow Airport

EasyJet cancelled another 80 flights yesterday. BA axed a further 118, but it stressed these were removed from its schedules weeks ago with people re-booked on to other planes. pictured: Bristol Airport

Hours before they were due to fly home from a week in Corfu, Jo Rowles and her family were awoken by a 4am text from easyJet telling them their flight was cancelled.

Along with husband Joe and children Ella, seven, and Jack, four, they went to the airport anyway – and were met by scenes of ‘carnage’.

They spent eight ‘horrendous’ hours on Sunday on the floor of the departure lounge. ‘We tried calling the easyJet helpline 40 times, but got cut off,’ said bank worker Mrs Rowles, 41, of Leafield, Oxfordshire.

‘We feel really let down. We’ll never fly with easyJet again.’

They were allocated a flight leaving at 1am yesterday – Jack’s fifth birthday – and told to find a hotel for the night. It finally took off for Gatwick, not Bristol where they’d left their car. EasyJet has said it is ‘very sorry’ about the cancellations.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested last night that beefing up the CAA’s powers was an option. He said: ‘It’s galling to see passengers stranded abroad due to operators selling flights they cannot deliver.

‘I’ve met with the sector to express my concerns… and have made clear this cannot be tolerated. We have also run a consultation on consumer rights issues, including additional powers for the CAA, and will publish a response on this in due course.’

BA travellers face more chaos as the GMB union is balloting members on a strike over pay. Heathrow check-in staff and ground handlers took ten per cent pay cuts in the pandemic and are demanding they be reversed. The ballot closes on June 23, and they could walk out from July.

EasyJet cancelled another 80 flights yesterday. BA axed a further 118, but it stressed these were removed from its schedules weeks ago with people re-booked on to other planes. Tui is axing six flights a day from Manchester until the end of the month.

MPs said ministers should look at giving the CAA the ability to impose multi-million-pound fines. Tory Karl McCartney said ‘firmer action’ is needed, adding: ‘Given the high pay of executives and profit levels, on-the-spot large fines could work.’

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrats’ transport spokesman, added: ‘We need urgent action to address this cowboy behaviour from airlines.’

Tim Alderslade, CEO of trade body Airlines UK, said the ‘vast majority’ of flights are ‘operating normally’, adding: ‘We continue to work around the clock to resolve the issues.’

At present, the CAA can’t impose fines for breaches of consumer rights, and beefing up its powers would likely require primary legislation being brought before Parliament.

The industry has called for aviation workers to be added to the shortage occupation list to alleviate the staff shortage, making it easier to recruit ‘cheap’ foreign labour from Europe.

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