UPDATED: Run ‘realistic’ schedules to avoid summer chaos, UK tells airlines

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LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) – Britain told airlines on Thursday it was down to them to avoid a repeat of recent chaotic scenes at airports during the upcoming holiday season, publishing a 22-point support plan that included a call to run “realistic” summer schedules.

The year has so far been marked by widespread disruption, including long queues and cancelled flights caused by staff shortages, leaving airlines and airports struggling to keep up with a surge in demand after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government’s planned measures for the industry included help in recruiting staff, but it also said they should run realistic schedules and support passengers when delays and cancellations are unavoidable. Critics have accused airlines of selling more tickets than they can honour, a charge they deny.

“It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half term,” transport minister Grant Shapps said in a statement.

The plan is the latest move by the government to try and relieve some of the pressure, having relaxed rules around airport slots last week to help scheduling.

The head of Airlines UK, which represents British airlines, said the sector was working with ministers and other government authorities to be more resilient.

“Aviation is a complex international eco-system with many moving parts but we are all working collectively to ensure the summer peak runs smoothly and passengers are able to get away,” Tim Alderslade said.

Earlier on Thursday, Britain’s busiest airport Heathrow asked airlines to cancel 30 scheduled flights due to passenger numbers exceeding the airport’s capacity.

Apologising for the impact of that decision on travel plans, a Heathrow spokesperson said it was working hard to ensure a smooth summer.

(Reporting by Muvija M and William JamesEditing by Kylie MacLellan and Mark Potter)

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