A tweet, subsequently shared to Facebook, has claimed that disruption seen at airports in recent weeks is a deliberate attempt to stop people from travelling.
The tweet, which was posted by journalist James Delingpole, says: “The sudden cancellation of flights is a global thing, not a UK-exclusive thing. Holidays are being deliberately ruined. This is part of the plan to stop you from travelling. And amazingly, most people are still buying into the line that it’s just about ‘staff shortages.’”
It is true that the UK is not the only country seeing high numbers of flights cancelled and delays at airports. Various airports in Europe, including Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris have also experienced significant issues, while some 2,500 flights were cancelled over a single bank holiday weekend in the United States last month.
However we can find no evidence to suggest that the disruption is part of a deliberate attempt to prevent people from travelling.
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What is causing the problems?
A number of factors seem to be contributing to the issues being experienced by many travellers in the UK and abroad. These include an increase in demand, as people look to travel following the end of most Covid-19 restrictions, as well as Covid-19 cases among flight crews. In Europe, strike action involving ground crews, cabin crews, pilots and air traffic controllers is also resulting in delays and cancellations.
In addition, many airlines laid off a lot of their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, and were unable to build staff numbers back up before travel restrictions were eased earlier this year.
Speaking at the FT Global Boardroom conference last week, Heathrow airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said “demand has been coming back . . . much faster than the ability of the industry to scale up.” As a result, many airlines, as well as airports, are currently experiencing significant staff shortages.
It takes time to recruit and fully train staff, who require stringent security checks in order to work in airports and on planes. Airline industry figures have claimed that as a result staff who are currently being recruited will likely not be able to take up their roles in time for the peak summer holiday travel period, with the International Air Travel Association (IATA) saying last month that clearance times for applicants had more than tripled to as long as three months.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has rejected claims by airline industry figures that security checks are causing staff shortages, saying: “I also understand the resourcing strains on the aviation sector but it does not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service.”
Earlier today, Gatwick Airport announced that it would be reducing the number of flights from the airport over the summer as a result of staff shortages, after the Department for Transport wrote to industry bosses urging them to cancel flights they could not deliver in advance, rather than at the last minute.
Image courtesy of Phil Mosley