EasyJet and RyanAir
EasyJet is by far the biggest carrier at Gatwick Airport | Photo: AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS

EasyJet has wrecked the summer plans of thousands of travellers by cancelling a huge number of flights between July and September.

EasyJet has axed around 1,700 flights, many of them from its main UK base Gatwick, disrupting summer plans of 180,000 passengers, reported The Independent. The budget airline is battling with "unprecedented" air-traffic control delays, which are currently three times longer than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

9,000 passengers still waiting for a replacement flight

While 95% of their impacted passengers have already been rebooked on another flight, around 9,000 people are still without a replacement, according to Mirror.

This news is a major setback in the UK as school summer holidays are just around the corner. It is understood that July is due to record the highest number of UK flight departures since October 2019 before the Covid pandemic, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. It said the number of flights departing the UK would be 11% higher than in July last year.

EasyJet has claimed that the cancellations approximately indicate the equivalent of one day's worth of flights. The London-based carrier will still run about 90,000 flights over that period.

The recent flight cancellations at the West Sussex airport will lead to new worries about the ability of crammed European airspace to deal with thriving demand. The problem is only expected to get worse with more air traffic control strikes threatened.

Last weekend, easyJet suspended many flights to and from Gatwick, where the low-budget airline is by far the biggest carrier. As per data from analytics firm Cirium, these cancellations could lead to summer fares getting higher, with volume still around 10% below 2019 levels. However, 92,400 flights are expected to fly out from the UK this month – more than any month since October 2019.

A spokesperson for EasyJet has said the whole airline industry is seeing "challenging conditions this summer" as the closure of Ukrainian airspace due to Russia's war has caused congestion in the skies and messed up flight schedules. Adding further, the spokesperson has pointed out that planned strikes by air traffic controllers in Europe could also have an impact.

"We have therefore made some pre-emptive adjustments to our programme consolidating a small number of flights at Gatwick, where we have multiple daily frequencies, in order to help mitigate these external challenges on the day of travel for our customers.

"Customers whose flights are affected are being informed, with 95% of customers being rebooked onto an alternative flight and all customers provided with the option to rebook or receive a refund," the spokesperson said.

A passenger's rights if a flight is cancelled in UK

All travellers must be aware that passengers have a number of rights under UK law if they are:

  • Flying from a UK airport.
  • Arriving at a UK airport on an EU or UK airline.
  • Arriving at an EU airport on a UK airline.

In any of the above cases, a traveller must receive the choice of a refund or alternative flight, regardless of how far in advance the cancellation was made. If either leg of the journey is cancelled by the airline, the passenger must receive a full refund for their return tickets.

Meanwhile, airspace remains one of the worries for UK airlines, with regular strikes from French air traffic control specifically forcing airlines to divert their planes to longer paths. Eurocontrol, which manages and coordinates airspace around Europe, has warned of "challenging conditions", with the war in Ukraine pressuring available flight paths, as well as more possible summer strike action.

It was earlier reported that popular European destinations including France and Greece are set to be hit by devastating flight chaos this summer.

Eurocontrol anticipates seeing "high overloads" of traffic in said key regions. The outcome of these "overloads" can be flight delays as flights are likely to take longer routes to avoid constricted areas. The delays are expected during the weekends and on Fridays throughout the summer period.