EasyJet’s COO resigns amid flight cancellation chaos
EasyJet’s chief operating officer has resigned amid mounting pressure over the turmoil that has engulfed the airline in recent months.
Peter Bellew fell on his sword Monday, July 4, as anger grows over the way the low-cost carrier handled a pandemic staffing strategy that has led to thousands of flight cancellations in recent months.
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The situation grew so dire at the beleaguered airline that many passengers have complained of not being told of their axed flight until the day they were due to depart.
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EasyJet has canceled more flights than almost any other airline in the U.K. in recent months. Its current issues appear to be largely spurred on by a staffing crisis brought about following cuts made during the pandemic. In May 2020, the airline announced plans to cut up to 30% of its workforce — approximately 4,500 employees.
Related: The key dates for when travel is set to be disrupted in Europe this summer
Since travel resumed in March 2022 after restrictions were lifted, EasyJet has struggled to fulfill its spring and summer flight schedules. Critics claim the company should have made better use of the government’s furlough scheme, rather than streamline operations through mass redundancies to weather the pandemic.
The resulting issues have led to cancellations of around 10,000 summer flights. It's understood just over 150,000 of the 160,000 flights initially scheduled to run over July, August and September will go ahead — meaning that roughly 6% have been axed.
Announcing Bellew’s resignation, EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said it was “absolutely focused on delivering a safe and reliable operation this summer.” He added that the airline’s operations would be left in the “very capable hands” of interim COO David Morgan “who will provide strong leadership for the airline this summer.”
Morgan is currently the director of flight operations at the beleaguered budget airline. He said, “The airline continues to operate up to 1,700 flights each day and carry up to 250,000 passengers.”
Last month, the Unite union slammed EasyJet for a “lack of leadership,” urging Bellew to “take control of this situation” following a number of planned strikes by easyJet staff.
Related: Are you entitled to compensation if your flight is affected by strikes?
The low-cost airline said Bellew would be leaving to “pursue other opportunities.” Of his replacement, Lundgren added: “David has significant experience and deep knowledge of the business and operation, and will provide strong leadership for the airline this summer.”
The airline said the majority of its flights were unaffected by the cancellations, with it continuing to operate up to 1,700 flights a day.
Recent months have seen shares in EasyJet plummet to below May 2020 levels when travel ground to a halt in the height of the pandemic.
Today, shares were trading down almost 3% after the announcement. EasyJet is one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE250.