LONDON (AP) — British travelers going abroad for the Easter holidays faced disruptions Monday as two main carriers, British Airways and easyJet, canceled dozens of flights due to staff shortages related to soaring cases of COVID-19 in the U.K.
Budget carrier easyJet grounded 62 flights scheduled for Monday after canceling at least 222 flights over the weekend, while British Airways said some three dozen out of its 115 flights canceled Monday were due to pandemic-related problems.
An easyJet spokesman said it is “experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness” as a result of high rates of COVID-19 infections across Europe.
The airline added that the number of cancellations “represents a small proportion” of the total of more than 1,600 flights planned for Monday.
Several of the British Airways cancellations were made at the last minute due to staff calling in sick, and about 25 others were a result of a decision taken in recent weeks to reduce its overall flight schedule.
“While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate as planned, as a precaution we’ve slightly reduced our schedule between now and the end of May as we ramp back up,” the airline said.
“Aviation has been one of the industries worst hit by the pandemic and airlines and airports are experiencing the same issues rebuilding their operations while managing the continuing impact of COVID,” it added.
The Easter school holidays, which start this week, are the first time many families in Britain have booked trips abroad after two years of restrictions. All remaining virus measures, including mandatory self-isolation for those infected and testing requirements for international travel, were binned in February and March as part of the U.K.’s “living with COVID” plan.
But coronavirus cases across the U.K. have soared again with the rapid spread of the more transmissible omicron BA.2 variant, reaching record levels last week when official figures showed that some 1 in 13 people had the coronavirus.
Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest, said it had anticipated delays this week because it expected to see the largest number of people traveling since the March 2020 lockdown.
The travel disruptions were made worse Monday after Eurotunnel said that services for travelers to Calais in France were delayed by hours due to a train that “stopped temporarily in the tunnel”.