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‘Desperately’ Short Staffed British Airways Cancels Flights as Omicron Rips Through England

‘Desperately’ Short Staffed British Airways Cancels Flights as Omicron Rips Through England

British Airways was forced to cancel dozens of flights on Sunday evening with insiders saying the airline was ‘desperately short‘ of staff as the Omicron variant rips through England leading to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Problems started on Sunday morning when one source said at least eight flights were delayed because there weren’t enough senior cabin crew members available. Other flights departed with fewer crew members than normal although in line with minimum legal requirements.

Problems quickly escalated through the day due to ‘under wing’ staff shortages including baggage handlers and other specialist roles. Customers complained of ‘chaos’ in the baggage reclaim hall at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 with some waiting hours for their baggage to appear.

Some flights were cancelled because there weren’t enough baggage handlers available to remove luggage from recently landed aircraft. Heathrow airport estimates that at least 1,000 bags had to be dumped in a holding area without being returned to their owner or being sent to a connecting flight.

British Airways has reportedly been short-staffed for several months after many travel restrictions were lifted and demand returned far quicker than managers had anticipated. Although the airline is trying to hire new cabin crew and ground staff, numbers are still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Sickness levels have recently skyrocketed as COVID-19 cases surge across the UK and much of Europe. Last week, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned government ministers that the sharp rise in infections would lead to mass staff shortages.

The Omicron variant is believed to be far more transmissible than previous COVID-19 variants. Infection rates in the UK have remained high since the summer but daily cases numbers nearly breached 100,000 in recent days.

On Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident due to the surge in Omicron cases and the pressure it was putting on the health service.

Last night, British Airways was advising people to leave Heathrow without their luggage and was offering to courier bags to their home address at a later date.

View Comments (3)
  • Stop with spreading the fear. I hate to break it to you but people are NOT dying from Omnicron. People are NOT getting seriously sick from Omnicron. Oh but those who’ve gotten the vaccine are still catching it. FAILED VACCINE. Look up the data in South Africa. It’s time to END THE MADNESS. END THE LOCKDOWNS. END IT ALL!

  • Let me explain the shortage of cabin crew.
    The short version: IFCE (the department that manages cabin crew) the incompetence and inefficiency of an under qualified middling level management.
    The longer version: In order to fit the entire spectrum of contract and fleet types into one financially acceptable vision – an ambition held by Willie Walsh when he was still at BA but not achieved, department heads were given tasks to achieve these results. My belief is that Sean Doyle, the new CEO believed the department to be led by people with ability.
    In all, around 5000 out of 15000 cabin crew were let go or at any rate encouraged to take a voluntary redundancy payment that was offered late in the consultation. IFCE’s head, Amy James, dithered and dallied whilst the two Unite union branches put up their version of member interests. The former seen as Godlike by its members, the latter refusing to enter talks for months on end.
    Eventually 5000 left, many were demoted but those who kept their jobs did so under new contract conditions. Some of these conditions are still not in place although the new Heathrow Cabin Crew fleet is over a year old and their flying agreement was published in February 2021. The 48 page document, including headers and indices, has been on Ian Brunton (manager for resource planning) desk since then but he has made very little effort to acknowledge or implement it as the airline continues to bleed cabin crew who have furthermore thwarted and indefinitely delayed in achieving some of the most urgent promises of the new flying agreement. For almost two years cabin crew have had no tangible support in achieving moderately successful trip bids or the ability to shape and influence their roster make up – points highlighted twice in the agreement. Almost a year after the agreement was put in place Amy James is believed to have assembled a focus group to establish what if any parameters for balancing work/life demands. Crew are haphazardly rostered often onto grueling schedules which they have no ability to successfully or easily receive help or assistance to manage.
    Amy James and Ian Brunton are not widely recognized within the crew community as responsive to direct email appeals.
    IFCE is at this point organized chaos.
    Flights are being delayed because there are not enough senior crew and of course the inevitable absences owing to covid illness or isolation. A large number of flights leave London with the legal minimum number of cabin crew on board who are pushed to provide the same level of service as a full complement. Union-arranged incentives were squeezed out of the airline for crew to be willing to operate certain services and/or work with reduced manpower and facilties.
    As a routine, this is now weighing heavily on crews’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
    All this while, Amy James is almost nowhere to be seen and after putting a halt to live Teams events several weeks ago put out a hand picked Q&A response to some of the most demanding questions which in essence, continued to delay with no insight or reason some of the flying agreement promises.
    Summary: Sean Doyle needs to urgently replace the leadership with a competent and effective management team who have the personality, ability and power to bring existing cabin crew into some kind of cohesive, supportive unit.
    Corona Virus is not the universal blame all. It has exposed BA’s personnel weaknesses and inability to think and work smart.

  • Lol the Mixed Fleet Unite union is really pathetic and has done nothing to support the poverty stricken MF crew. The reps are all corrupt and in cahoots with management. They wanted the per diem allowance structure which meant crew got £12 for some of the longest trips..

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