Can you improve your chances of not having your flight canceled this summer?

Horror stories of waking up on the day of your long-awaited vacation and finding the message “Your flight has been cancelled” seem ubiquitous as we head into summer.

Although airlines – including British Airways, easyJet and Wizz Air – cancel only a small percentage of their total scheduled flights each week, there is an ongoing trend of flights to and from the UK being canceled both in advance and at the last minute.

Airlines cite a range of reasons for the chaos, from staff shortages and absenteeism to slow hiring processes for new crews and problems with air traffic control at certain airports.

EasyJet recently announced it would be canceling hundreds more flights this summer; It will operate for 90 percent of its summer timetable instead of the previously expected 97 percent.

Meanwhile, Gatwick is capping daily operations to allow the airport to run more smoothly, meaning airlines are having to cancel up to 50 flights a day.

How can you avoid last-minute nerves and ensure a good start to your holiday?

We know that from the cancellation data.

Avoid flights from Gatwick and Bristol

According to Cirium, Gatwick had by far the most cancellations of departing flights in both May and June 2022 – 249 in total in May and 248 in the first 14 days of June alone. That compares to 146 and 62 at Heathrow and 93 and 85 for Manchester respectively. Gatwick has been operating around 800 flights per day this spring (and recently announced a daily cap of 825 to 850 for July and August) so these departure cancellations account for only around 1 per cent of all canceled flights. (Heathrow operates about 35,100 flights a month, so the 93 departing flights canceled in May account for about 0.3 percent of total flights). But with clear operational issues causing the cap on flights handled, avoiding Gatwick is a smart move.

In June, 119 flights were canceled at Bristol Airport in the first two weeks – with around 300 flights handled per day, that is almost 3 percent of the canceled services. Switching from a smaller airport could help, while Stansted has remained London’s most resilient airport: the airports with the fewest cancellations in May were London Stansted, Jersey and Teeside (just six each), while in the first two weeks of June the Isle of Man, Inverness and Humberside saw six or seven rejections each, with Stansted doing worse but still good at just 14.

Avoid easyJet and BA short haul flights

By far the worst airline in terms of cancellations over the past six weeks has been easyJet – it canceled 932 flights departing from the UK between 1 May and 14 June 2022, according to Cirium. For comparison, British Airways (including CityFlyer subsidiary) canceled the next largest amount: 195 in those six weeks. Most of the affected BA routes were domestic or short European routes (see below). British domestic carrier Loganair had the third-highest number of outbound flight cancellations in that six-week period, with 147 flights cancelled. Other airlines in the top 10 for May-June cancellations include SAS, Tui, Lufthansa and Eastern Airways.

Fly with Ryanair or Jet2

On the other hand, despite a huge network, Ryanair did not appear in the top 10 airlines with the most flight cancellations in both months. Bloomberg journalist Conrad Quilty-Harper took to Twitter this week to champion the blue-budget airline, arguing: “EasyJet and British Airways suffered the most with the IT issues in May that resulted in many canceled flights. Ryanair’s schedule was relatively robust!”

It is true that Ryanair seems largely unaffected by the current spate of flight cancellations – some in the industry have suggested this is because it has made minimal layoffs during the pandemic, instead agreeing pay cuts and changes in working practices with pilots . So it didn’t have to ‘replenish’ with new – and possibly reluctant – staff like BA and easyJet. Jet2 also did not appear in the top 10 flight cancellations, while its competitors easyJet, Wizz Air and Tui all appeared.

Fly on Tuesdays and avoid Mondays

More wise advice from Mr. Quilty-Harper, who says, “Fly on a Tuesday, not a Sunday, even though the gains are marginal.” The largest gap between the number of scheduled flights and the number of flights actually departed on Sundays was 6.6 percent. Tuesday was the best day for most scheduled flights, although there was still a 5.5 percent difference. There is also a certain price logic behind this tip: Tuesday is one of the cheapest flight days.

fly long distance

This is a situation where a 14 hour flight can actually be less stressful than a 40 minute flight. According to analysis by The Independent and data from Cirium, a number of British Airways and easyJet repeat routes have been canceled in the last six weeks, including Belfast, the Isle of Man, Scotland, Italy, Spain and the Canary Islands, Portugal and Turkey. No long-haul flights were affected by the repeated cancellations due to staff shortages. So if you fly BA to New York from Heathrow, for example, your chances are much better. An exception on medium-haul routes is Hurghada in Egypt, where easyJet has canceled all flights with immediate effect until the end of July.

Avoid the Netherlands

Both KLM and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol have had a difficult time over the past two months as KLM canceled dozens of flights from the hub due to operational problems. According to Cirium data, KLM’s CityHopper brand canceled the third-most frequent flights in May 2022 and the fourth-most frequent in the first two weeks of June. Yesterday, Schiphol Airport capped the number of passengers it will handle this summer at 70,000 per day – around 16 per cent fewer than airlines had planned over the period. A lack of security staff and baggage handlers at the airport has repercussions that cause disruption on a daily basis.

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