Heathrow and easyJet update on flight chaos as both reveal big financial hits

Business

Heathrow Airport and easyJet, two of the air industry players affected by this year’s flight chaos, have revealed large financial hits while outlining how they are coping during the summer rush.

The low-cost carrier said cancellations and delays caused by staff shortages at airports and in the air had cost it £133m over its latest quarter to the end of June.

EasyJet said its operations had now “normalised” after frantic cuts to its schedules since the end of COVID pandemic restrictions on travel.

Heathrow, which has also struggled to match a recovery in demand, painted a similar picture for its own ability to manage crowds through the summer rush.

However, it claimed airlines’ ground-handling operations continued to prove a drag on reliability.

Earlier this month – and on top of a UK government amnesty that allowed airlines to cancel flights without fear of losing precious take-off and landing slots – Heathrow imposed a further cap on departing passenger numbers to boost resilience.

It said people using the airport since last Thursday had enjoyed a “smooth and reliable journey” despite the ground-handling shortage.

More on Travel Chaos

The airport said increased passenger numbers meant its first-half adjusted loss before tax had reduced by £466m.

However, it remained in the red by the same measure to the tune of £321m and said it was not forecasting a dividend this year as a result.

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What’s behind UK airport delays?

EasyJet reported a headline loss before tax of £114m for its third quarter.

It cited the “unprecedented ramp up” in aviation, coupled with a tight labour market, for its own operational challenges.

“We have taken action to build the additional resilience needed this summer and the operation has now normalised,” chief executive Johan Lundgren told investors.

Despite the problems, it said it had operated 95% of its planned schedule in the quarter and had flown 22 million passengers.

It said July, August, and September were currently 71% booked, with a load factor slightly ahead of 2019 and sold ticket yield 13% above pre-pandemic levels.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said of its performance: “The summer getaway has started well at Heathrow, thanks to early planning and keeping demand in line with airline ground handler capacity.”

But he added: “We can’t ignore that COVID has left the aviation sector deeply scarred, and the next few years will need investment to rebuild capacity, with a focus on safety, consumer service, resilience, and efficiency.

“Airlines need to recruit and train more ground handlers; airports need to catch up on underinvestment during the COVID years – at Heathrow, that means replacing the T2 baggage system and new security lanes.”

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