British Airways (BA) has announced it will cut a further 10,300 short-haul flights until the end of October.
The airline, among the worst hit by post-pandemic staff shortages that have resulted in widespread disruption for passengers this year, made the announcement just a day after another wave of cancellations was revealed in a bid to make schedules more robust.
BA told Sky News that the cancellations it was announcing to passengers on Wednesday, covering August to October, were part of a focus on protecting popular holiday flights.
It suggested that destinations with weak bookings would be most likely to have flight frequency consolidated.
However, there could be worse problems ahead for BA customers using Heathrow.
BA revealed the latest cuts less than 24 hours before unions representing 700 of its check-in and ground-handling staff at the airport – almost half its customer-facing team there – were expected to reveal strike dates in a dispute over pay.
The walkouts were widely expected to coincide with the start of the summer holiday rush once schools in England break up for the end of term.
However, union sources revealed late on Wednesday night that “extensive talks” with the airline had taken place, leaving the prospect of the strike dates announcement in doubt.
The airline has not been able to rule out making even greater curbs to flights in the event that strikes go ahead.
It is able to do so, without risk of penalty including the loss of take-off and landing slots, until the close of business on Friday when a government amnesty expires.
The move is aimed at giving passengers certainty over their flights, preventing a repeat of the scenes witnessed over Easter and the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday when airports and airlines failed to cope with high demand.
BA said: “The government recently decided to give the whole industry slot alleviation to minimise potential disruption this summer.
“While taking further action is not where we wanted to be, it’s the right thing to do for our customers and our colleagues.
“This new flexibility means that we can further reduce our schedule and consolidate some of our quieter services so that we can protect as many of our holiday flights as possible.
“While most of our flights are unaffected and the majority of customers will get away as planned, we don’t underestimate the impact this will have and we’re doing everything we can to get their travel plans back on track.
“We’re in touch to apologise and offer rebooking options for new flights with us or another airline as soon as possible or issue a full refund.”