Airline passengers faced fresh disruption on Thursday after an IT glitch forced easyJet to cancel about 200 flights around Europe.
The airline scrapped a stream of flights due to take off between 1pm and 3pm, affecting dozens to and from UK airports, including its biggest base at Gatwick.
EasyJet, Britain’s largest airline by passenger numbers, said it had rectified the issue by mid-afternoon but there were knock-on delays to other flights. The cause of the problem was not immediately known.
Passengers at Manchester, Luton and Bristol were among the estimated tens of thousands affected.
An easyJet spokesperson said: “The earlier IT systems issues have now been rectified. Unfortunately, they resulted in some cancellations earlier today and while we expect to operate most of our remaining flying programme some may still be subject to some disruption in the coming hours.
“We advise customers due to travel with us to continue to check Flight Tracker for the status of their flight before making their way to the airport. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
The problems at easyJet are the latest to hit the aviation industry, which has struggled to cope with the surge of demand for travel after restrictions were lifted at the end of the pandemic.
EasyJet was forced to cancel hundreds of flights last month due to staff sickness as coronavirus continued to affect airlines and airports, even as passengers were permitted to enter the UK without restrictions.
British Airways also decided to pre-emptively cancel about 100 flights a day until the end of October to ensure it could operate its schedule effectively.
Long queues have persisted at airports since Easter, with Manchester in particular having seen chaotic scenes and delays owing to a lack of staff in key roles.
Airports have been recruiting thousands more staff in jobs such as security and ground handling, but many employees were either laid off or chose to depart when Covid restrictions effectively stopped most foreign travel. New recruits need to go through training and sometimes lengthy background checks before joining.
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The latest problem came on the day the government promised to bolster passengers’ rights, with regard to cancelled or delayed air travel. A new aviation passenger charter will be launched this year, as part of an aviation strategy published by the Department for Transport, titled Fit to Fly.
It promised to support airline businesses in the recovery and also held out a possible olive branch to Heathrow, which had been left to carry out its own court battle to uphold official government policy backing its third runway, after opponents won a judicial review.
The strategy, launched at Heathrow on Thursday by aviation minister Robert Courts, said the government would “support growth in airport capacity where justified” as part of a 10-point plan to back the wider industry.