‘As soon as we knew there were strains in the system we built that resilience up’ – Garry Wilson, chief executive, easyJet Holidays
As early morning easyJet flights from Gatwick were once again cancelled at a few hours’ notice, a senior executive at the company has insisted: “We can guarantee that we’ve done everything within our control to ensure that there’s resilience built within the system.”
Speaking to the BBC, Garry Wilson, chief executive of easyJet Holidays – the package arm of Britain’s biggest budget airline – said: “There may be other things that happen, such as air-traffic control delays or airport infrastructure, and what we need to do there is to ensure that where there are interruptions to the normal service that we’ve got enough information that we can pass to customers.”
Passengers on Thursday’s 6.25am easyJet flight from Gatwick to Venice were sent messages at midnight reading: “We’re sorry that your flight has been cancelled. This is due to a technical issue with your aircraft which could not be resolved.”
A flight from Gatwick to Glasgow, due out at the same time, was also grounded late on Wednesday night for technical reasons. An early departure to Cagliari in Sardinia had been cancelled two days ahead.
With inbound legs grounded as well, around 1,000 easyJet passengers have been hit by the cancellation of those three outbound flights alone.
The airline set out to operate 10 per cent more flights this summer from its biggest base, Gatwick, than it did in 2019. With inadequate resources to run that programme, easyJet has since cancelled thousands of flights – affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.
But short-notice cancellations continue. This week, London student Alice Hickson was among 100-plus passengers who spent 16 hours at Gatwick after the Sunday evening flight to Palma de Mallorca was abruptly cancelled in the early hours of Monday morning.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules, easyJet should have provided hotel rooms for the stranded travellers. But the airline said none were available.
Ms Hickson told The Independent: “We couldn’t work out why we’d been informed so late, past any time that other plans could’ve been made.
“I feel like easyJet were extremely incompetent, and in no other public service would it be acceptable to sleep on the floor in a public place, and suffer a 16-hour delay.”
Mr Wilson was asked by Katy Austin, the BBC’s transport correspondent: “Did easyJet just fail to prepare for a bumper summer?”
He replied. “No. I think that with the information that we had at the time, with the capacity that we were planning, I think we took all of the steps that we needed to do that.
“As soon as we knew there were strains in the system we built that resilience up.”
British Airways has cancelled 30,000 planned summer flights, almost all from its main hub at London Heathrow.
Wizz Air has made a number of last-minute cancellations, with passengers sleeping on the floor at Split airport last weekend after a London-bound plane was grounded at short notice.
In a bid to limit short-notice cancellations, Gatwick airport has imposed a cap of 825 movements per day in July, rising to 850 in August. The maximum previously planned was around 900.