Man dies at Gatwick as flight cancellation chaos continues


As news emerged of a tragedy involving a disabled passenger who had just arrived at Gatwick, the airport has announced plans to cap operations in July and August.

The announcement to curtail departures and arrivals was planned before an accident on Wednesday at the airport’s North Terminal on Wednesday, involving a passenger who had arrived on an easyJet flight.

The Sun reports that while the passenger’s wife, who also required special assistance, was taken off the Airbus jet, he was left behind. After waiting for an hour, he decided to try to make his own way from the aircraft into the terminal. He fell on an escalator, sustaining fatal injuries.

Members of easyJet cabin crew who witnessed the accident tried to provide assistance but were unable to save him.

The death highlights the resource shortages at Gatwick and other airports.

At least 50 easyJet departures and arrivals were grounded at Gatwick on Thursday, along with further flights on British Airways and Wizz Air. An estimated 10,000 passengers did not travel as booked.

Stuart Dempster, who was hoping to fly from Lisbon to Gatwick, tweeted: “@easyJet cancels our flight at short notice from Lisbon to London, with the usual chaotic ‘help’ to support passengers. Rebooked with @tapairportugal tomorrow, in the hope we’ll get home. Never gonna fly easyJet again!”

Now, two weeks before the start of the July-August peak season, Gatwick airport’s bosses have asked airlines to trim their proposed schedules in the hope “that passengers experience a more reliable and better standard of service”.

The plan is to make cuts now, rather than risk further distressing “on the day” cancellations.

On the busiest days, airlines will be told to cancel up to 50 flights – requiring thousands of passengers already booked on them to find alternative departures.

An airport statement said: “After a significant and rapid upturn in traffic, Gatwick airport is working with airlines to implement deliverable timetables to help prevent short notice and last-minute cancellations.

“Under-resourced airline ground handling companies will cause poor service this summer and delays, unless urgent action is taken.”

The airport has agreed with airlines to reduce planned operations from a maximum of 900 departures and arrivals to 825 in July and 850 in August.

Airport Coordination Ltd, the body that assigns take-off and landing “slots” at Gatwick and other hubs, will stipulate the number of cancellations that each airline must make.

Passengers on easyJet will bear the brunt of the cancelled flights, with British Airways, Wizz Air, Tui, Norwegian and Ryanair also expected to ground departures.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, any passenger whose flight is cancelled can insist on being rebooked on the same day if a seat is available, even if it requires the airline that grounds the original departure to pay for a ticket on a rival airline.

The airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “Gatwick prepared well for the restart of international travel by successfully reopening our South Terminal.

“We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers this summer, and while more newly recruited staff will start work in coming weeks, we know it will be a busy summer.

“However, it is clear that 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.”

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