easyJet (London Luton) has consolidated flights at London Gatwick in response to a cap introduced by the airport for the 2022 summer holiday period following staff shortages that have resulted in long queues, flight delays, and cancellations.

London's second busiest airport will limit its capacity to 825 flights a day in July and 850 flights daily in August, the airport announced in a statement. "The move follows a significant and rapid upturn in air traffic levels at Gatwick that - during a busy but challenging Jubilee holiday week - saw about 800 flights use the runway on average each day," the airport said.

In a similar move, Amsterdam Schiphol recently capped its capacity at 70% amid staff shortages that have seen long queues at check-in and security check-points both land- and airside, resulting in missed flights, delays, and passenger frustrations.

According to easyJet, problems include air traffic control delays and staff shortages in groundhandling at airports, resulting in increased aircraft turnaround times and delayed departures, which have a knock-on effect on flight cancellations. "A very tight labour market for the whole ecosystem including crew, compounded by increased ID check times, has reduced planned resilience further. This is reflected in the flight caps announced recently at two of our biggest airports, London Gatwick and Amsterdam."

Gatwick Airport Chief Executive Officer Stewart Wingate explained further: "During the Jubilee week, a number of companies operating at the airport struggled in particular because of staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help the ground handlers – and also our airlines – to better match their flying programmes with their available resources".

"As has already been the case, the vast majority of flights over the summer will operate as normal, and the steps taken today mean that our passengers can expect a more reliable and better standard of service, while also improving conditions for staff working at the airport," he added.

The airport said it was "imperative that each airline also review its operational capabilities and put flight schedules in place that are realistic and aligned with available crew and ground handling resources".

In a Summer 2022 trading update on June 20, easyJet Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren said: "While in recent weeks the action we have taken to build in further resilience has seen us continue to operate up to 1,700 flights and carry up to a quarter of a million customers a day, the ongoing challenging operating environment has unfortunately continued to have an impact which has resulted in cancellations.

"Coupled with airport caps, we are taking pre-emptive actions to increase resilience over the balance of summer, including a range of further flight consolidations in the affected airports, giving advance notice to customers, and we expect the vast majority to be rebooked on alternative flights within 24 hours. We believe this is the right action for us to take so we can deliver for all of our customers over the peak summer period in this challenging environment."

On the cost implications of the capacity cuts, the budget carrier said: "As a result of these pre-emptive actions, easyJet now expects its third-quarter capacity, to June 30, 2022, to be around 87% of FY19 levels, and Q4, to September 30, 2022, to be around 90% of FY19 levels. There will be a cost impact from disruption, coupled with the enhanced resilience easyJet is putting in place this summer, from additional wet-leased aircraft, crew costs, and airport charges. We will therefore exceed the previously provided operating CASK ex-fuel guidance. We believe that these capacity/cost impacts are a one-off this summer as we would expect all parties to build greater resilience in time for 2023 peak periods."

easyJet said booking momentum continued with demand for travel this summer remained strong, with Q3 currently 86% sold with ticket yields up 2% and Q4 48% sold and ticket yields up 14%. "This Q4 booking position is broadly in line with where we were at the same point in FY19. We will continue to fine-tune our schedule in the light of industry conditions as we move through the summer season."

Meanwhile, easyJet competitor Ryanair (FR, Dublin Int'l), on June 20, announced it was adding more than 1,000 extra flights for July and August to Europe to facilitate UK holidaymakers whose flights had been cancelled by British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), easyJet, and TUI Airways (BY, London Luton). Neither British Airways nor TUI Airways was immediately available for comment.