Low-cost carrier easyJet made headlines over the weekend when it announced it would remove the back seats from its A319 fleet, in order to operate flights on planes with fewer members.
UK law states that each flight must have “one member of the crew for every 50 or a fraction of the 50 passenger seats fitted on the aircraft.”
The move will reduce the capacity on some of its planes from 156 passengers to 150.
That’s just one of the effects of staff shortages that hit airlines including easyJet and British Airways this spring, with more problems expected in the summer.
Both airlines have canceled dozens of flights in recent weeks, blaming absenteeism and slow hiring for the problems.
But what other impact could airline and airport staffing shortages have on our spring and summer break?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Why did easyJet remove plane seats?
Britain’s biggest budget airline plans to remove six (back row) seats from its A319 aircraft ahead of its summer schedule, to allow flights to run with three, instead of four, non-airline members. crew.
UK law requires airlines to have one flight attendant for every 50 passengers on a flight.
An easyJet spokesperson told the press: “This summer we will be operating the UK A319 fleet with up to 150 passengers on board and three CAA compliant cabin crew. [Civil Aviation Authority] regulations.
“This is an efficient way to operate our fleet while adding additional resilience and flexibility to our operations this summer, where we are expected to return to flying level near 2019”.
All affected aircraft are based in the UK, home to around 60 of the airline’s 126-strong fleet.
Although the airline did not mention staff shortages, it suggested that flights had recently been canceled due to high levels of staff illness and absenteeism.
The IndependentTravel expert Simon Calder said: “The airline did something similar in the 2000s, albeit as a cost-cutting measure rather than a response to staff shortages. At that time, there was no obligation to remove the seat; instead, a large X was placed on the six seats and passengers were prohibited from sitting in them. “
The removal of these seats is unlikely to affect summer bookings, he added, as the last few seats on any given short-haul flight are usually sold out at the last minute anyway.
How else might a staff shortage affect the summer break?
However, you should spend a lot of time at the airport before your flight.
Airports in the UK, Ireland and wider Europe have all suffered from longer-than-normal queues and delayed flights as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown.
A report released last week by airport association ACI Europe found that two-thirds (66%) of the continent’s airports expect flight delays to increase “in the summer and beyond”. again”.
Meanwhile, more than a third said operations would be affected by staff shortages during the summer and after; and one in six airports expect an increase in flight cancellations during the peak summer period.
Airports including Manchester, Dublin and Birmingham are all recommending that travelers flying from their terminals arrive no less than three hours early, and are encouraging customers to separate their security items, such as machines, in advance. laptops and liquids, to ensure a smoother, more efficient security process.
Similarly, some airports have wanted to emphasize that passengers shouldn’t arrive too early – some have pointed out that customers arriving three or four hours early clog up queues for those with earlier flights. during the day.
Manchester Airport has been through a rough hour recently on Monday morning, with at least one customer saying they had missed their flight due to being stuck in a security queue.
Ian Costigan, interim chief executive of Manchester Airport, said the airport was going through a successful “recruitment” to operate a “full schedule” this summer.
“We want to make sure our customers enjoy their travel, so everyone at Manchester Airport is focused on providing the extra resources needed for us to continue operating our flight schedule. fly his full,” he said Manchester Evening News.
“It is encouraging to see new employees joining us due to our ongoing hiring process, and we have seen security wait times decrease in recent weeks. The past few weeks have been challenging but the team on the ground has done a great job of getting passengers through security more quickly, and I want to thank all of my colleagues for their hard work and dedication. ”
In addition to airport delays before departure, both British Airways and easyJet have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights in advance in recent weeks.
Some airlines have also been forced to reduce in-flight food service due to staff issues – in a statement to customers this week, Tui warned that they may not be able to deliver food and drinks. drinks on its flights in the coming days.
A spokesperson for Tui told the press: “We can confirm that unfortunately due to a staff shortage on our food service provider, food and beverage service may be limited on flights. to fly short and medium routes of Tui Airways in the coming days.
“As a result, customers may want to bring their own food and soft drinks on board (no alcohol allowed). Soft drinks over 100ml must be purchased after they have been preserved.
“Please note that this disruption does not affect any long-haul flights to Aruba, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Orlando and St Lucia and meal services on these flights. will continue to operate normally.
“Rest assured that we are continuously monitoring the situation and working closely with our suppliers to limit the impact on on-board service for our customers. We are in direct contact with all affected customers.”
Affected airports are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, Dublin, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds Bradford, Luton, Manchester, Norwich and Teesside.
What have airlines said about delays and shortages?
In mid-April, easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren also said the airline had been hampered by a slow recruitment process overseen by the UK government.
Mr. Lundgren said the airline was waiting for the Department of Transport (DfT) to allow about 100 new employees to start work.
This week, an easyJet spokesman said the airline saw high levels of illness in April – more than double what was normal at their peak – meaning the airline had forced to “pre-cancel” a small percentage of flights.
They highlighted that the airline successfully operated about 1,600 flights a day last month, carrying a quarter of a million passengers.
British Airways says it has been struggling with a rise in staff illness and hiring new staff to meet new travel demand, and said it has reduced its summer schedule to improve its performance. improve operational problems.
The spokesperson also mentioned that the check-in process for new airline employees, involves consultation and can take several weeks to complete.
“The past few weeks have been challenging for the industry as a whole and at British Airways we are fully focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the largest hire in our history and increasing our capabilities. our operational resilience,” the British flag carrier said in a statement.
“We have taken action to reduce our schedules to help provide certainty for our customers and give them maximum flexibility in rebooking with us or another airline as much as possible. as close to their original departure time as possible or for a full refund.”
The Independent approached Tui for comment on limited onboarding.