Travel agencies should have been ready for post-Covid surge, UK minister says | Travel & leisure

The travel industry should have been better prepared for a surge in post-pandemic holidays, a government minister has said, after scenes of chaos at airports ahead of the mid-term break.

Arts Minister Stephen Parkinson, a former adviser to Theresa May, said the disruption was causing “a great deal of distress” to people who had been unable to move away for several years due to the pandemic.

Flight cancellations have led many passengers to face long delays on their mid-term breaks. EasyJet canceled more than 200 flights to and from Gatwick between May 28 and June 6. The airline’s Twitter feed referred to dozens of passengers stranded at Gatwick to its Disruption Assistance webpage.

Tui also made several last-minute cancellations, including from Gatwick, Birmingham and Bristol, blaming “operational and supply chain issues”.

Airports are particularly under pressure due to widespread use of travel vouchers from previously canceled holidays, and this week will be the first school holidays in England and Wales since all UK Covid travel restrictions were lifted.

Airline management group chief executive Peter Davies said the industry would likely be reluctant to spend money on tackling the bottlenecks facing passengers.

“When thousands of people arrive at Heathrow at seven in the morning, and this has been happening for years, where many people arrive on overnight flights, then you have to be prepared to make sure you can handle those people,” did he declare.

“But of course it costs money and space, and people are often hesitant to do it.”

Lord Parkinson said airlines and airports have been urged by the government to hire more staff to cope with demand. “Colleagues in the Department of Transport have been working with industry, we have been urging them for months to ensure they have enough staff so that through the successful deployment of the vaccine, when people can travel again, the people can take the holidays they’ve missed and deserved,’ he told Sky News.

“Of course it causes a lot of distress for people, especially mid-term, people with family and children with them.

“It’s very distressing if you show up at the airport and your flight isn’t ready, so we’ve told the industry that they have to be prepared for that: they have to have the staff they need to make sure people can get away and enjoy the vacation.

Parkinson said it was clear that better recruitment should have been done to meet the increased demand. “There was a period when people were just not able to travel for obvious reasons, but there have been many months where we have been on the road again, especially since the vaccination…businesses should have had the people in place.”

Shadow Treasury minister James Murray said the government had failed to provide adequate support to the sector.

“We have been warning for months throughout the Covid pandemic that you cannot just let the airline industry and airports collapse, let them get rid of all their staff and then expect to back on track when demand returns after the pandemic,” he said.

“We were warning about this, unions were warning about this, employee representatives were saying throughout the Covid pandemic, ‘You need a sectoral package to support the aviation sector’, and now we let’s see what happened because the government didn’t I’m not prepared for what would obviously come next,” Murray said.

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Tui released a statement saying the surge in demand caused the cancellations. He said: “We would like to apologize to some of our customers who have experienced flight delays in recent days.

“Although flight delays and cancellations with us are rare, unfortunately the sudden increase in the number of people going on holiday, combined with various operational and supply chain issues, has meant that a small number of our flights were affected.”

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