LONDON – British Airways canceled dozens of flights on Friday, blaming computer problems for disrupting the plans of thousands of passengers at the start of a busy bank holiday weekend – a tough start to Europe’s summer travel season.
Technical breakdowns and strikes by airport staff across Europe are raising fears of a repeat of last summer’s post-pandemic air travel chaos that caused delays, cancellations and mountains of lost luggage from London to Sweden to Amsterdam.
Most of the 42 London flights affected were on short-haul routes to and from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport. Computer problems on Thursday left planes and crew out of position on Friday, which was expected to be the busiest day for UK air travel since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Other flights were delayed, and some passengers could not check in online. Travel is expected to be particularly busy over the next few days as the three-day weekend coincides with the start of the Sunday holidays for most schools in Britain.
“We are aware of the technical issue, which we have been working hard to resolve,” British Airways said on its website.
The industry is gearing up for a busy summer season and hopes to avoid a repeat of the chaos of last year, when airports and airlines struggled to keep up with demand that picked up again after pandemic restrictions were eased.
“While some disruption can be expected, there is a clear expectation that the overcrowding issues facing some key airports in 2022 will be resolved,” the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, said this month.
“To meet strong demand, airlines are planning schedules based on capacity declared by airports, border control, ground operators and air navigation service providers. In the coming months, all industry players must now deliver,” the airline industry group said .
IATA warned that strikes, including strikes by airport staff such as air traffic controllers, were “a cause for concern”, particularly in places like France. Industrial action by French workers fighting the government over pension reforms has led to the cancellation of as many as 30% of flights at Paris’s second-busiest airport, Orly, on some days.
In Britain, security guards at Heathrow launched a three-day strike over pay on Thursday after walking off the job during busy periods earlier this year, including Easter.
Strikes have been a problem, but “the mitigation measures that have been put in place have meant that in the vast majority of cases people have been able to travel out of the UK as expected, and we expect the same to be the case over the summer months,” Julia Lo Bue-Said said. , chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents around 350 UK travel agents.
“The industry is made of many moving parts and navigating some of the issues beyond our control during periods of extreme traffic puts increased pressure on the entire ecosystem,” she said.