British airline easyJet (EZJ.L) has axed 2% of its summer flight schedule, affecting the holiday plans of 180,000 customers, which it blamed on air traffic control challenges across Europe.
The travel industry is on high alert for disruption this summer after Europe’s peak season last year was hit by cancellations, causing chaos at airports, because the industry did not have enough staff to handle the rapid bounce back in demand after the pandemic.
This summer, air traffic control issues are likely to be the weak spot, according to warnings from Eurocontrol, which manages European airspace.
EasyJet, the biggest airline in the UK by number of passengers, said on Monday that making changes now meant it could avoid last-minute cancellations which were more costly and caused passengers more inconvenience.
The airline said it had plenty of crew and pilots but worries over air traffic meant it had cancelled 1,700 flights, mostly from its biggest base at London’s Gatwick airport, out of the 90,000 scheduled for the rest of July and August.
It said 95% of affected passengers had already been re-booked on an alternative flight because it had mostly consolidated flights with multiple frequencies.
Europe’s airspace has been squeezed by the war in Ukraine leaving less capacity for aircraft, plus staffing issues at some air control locations and industrial action are causing bottlenecks, making on the day cancellations more likely.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused,” easyJet said in a statement.
The airline’s shares were flat in trading on Monday.