EasyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew has resigned amid growing pressure on the airline to reduce flight disruption, as Britons trying to fly abroad for their summer holidays once again faced huge waits at airports today.
Mr Bellew, who used to work for Ryanair, has quit the Luton-based airline – one of the worst hit by cancellations in recent months, having axed thousands of flights including many just hours before they were due to depart.
It comes after trade union Unite claimed last month that there was a ‘lack of leadership’ within easyJet, and Mr Bellew should be ‘taking control of this situation’ as the aviation sector struggles to cope with the rising demand for travel amid staff shortages and difficulties obtaining security clearance for new recruits. EasyJet said that David Morgan – who has been with the airline since 2016 – has been appointed as interim chief operating officer.
Mr Bellew, who also previously worked for Malaysia Airlines, made headlines at the start of the pandemic when he issued an apology after circulating a video among staff in Febraury 2020 which referred to the ‘ridiculous hype’ surrounding coronavirus, urged staff to ‘please to show up for work’ and ‘focus on better on-time performance’.
He also had to apologise only days earlier for plagiarising Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s St Patrick’s Day message in a motivational easyJet video asking pilots and cabin crew to make financial sacrifices due to the pandemic. Mr Bellew said at the time that Mr Varadkar ‘struck exactly the right note’ and so he ‘borrowed some of his phrases’.
Mr Bellew joined easyJet from Ryanair after a High Court case in Dublin in December 2019 found his 12-month non-compete clause was unenforceable. During the case, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary denied describing Mr Bellew as ‘too nice for Ryanair’ and that Mr Bellew ‘was a lover and not a fighter.’ Ryanair had argued during two weeks of hearings that Mr Bellew possessed information of immense competitive value and was bound by a non-compete clause that the airline said should prevent him from starting work at the British low-cost rival until January 2021.
But lawyers for Mr Bellew denied he was subject to the clause, saying it was attached to a share option scheme they said was effectively valueless. They also argued that the restriction against working for ‘any airline that competes with Ryanair in any market,’ was overly broad. The judge at the time said that while the non-compete clause was valid, it was also unjustifiably restrictive by preventing Mr Bellew from joining any airline in any market.
Mr Bellew’s salary at easyJet is not known, although at Ryanair he was revealed in court to have been earning €550,000 (£473,000) a year as of 2019, with a bonus of up to €500,000 (£430,000) as well as share options.
In April, the pilots’ union Balpa blamed Mr Bellew for a breakdown in relations with easyJet, and also accused the airline of ‘corporate bullying’ after it was suggested that disciplinary action could be taken against absent staff. That development came after more than 2,000 easyJet pilots voted in July 2020 to express no confidence in him.
EasyJet said today that Mr Bellew had left to ‘pursue other business opportunities’. The airline added in a statement: ‘EasyJet remains absolutely focused on our daily operation and continues to monitor this very closely, having taken pre-emptive action to build further resilience for the summer due to the current operating environment. The airline continues to operate up to 1,700 flights each day and carry up to 250,000 passengers.’
And easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said today: ‘I would like to thank Peter for his hard work and wish him well. Everyone at easyJet remains absolutely focused on delivering a safe and reliable operation this summer.’
Speaking about Mr Morgan’s appointment into the same position, Mr Lundgren continued: ‘I am pleased that operations will be in the very capable hands of David Morgan who can move seamlessly into this role having previously led the operation, as interim chief operating officer, throughout 2019. David has significant experience and deep knowledge of the business and operation, and will provide strong leadership for the airline this summer.’
Also today, Britons trying to leave Manchester Airport were left queuing for security in the terminal’s car park – while passengers using London Heathrow also described a ‘total mess’ this morning as they endured long waits for security with queues for Terminal Two starting outside the building, and Terminal Three also looking busy.
Those flying out of London City – which tends to run short-haul flights to European destinations and has been generally unaffected by the recent chaos – also described ‘utter chaos’ and an airport ‘totally out of control’.
Staff shortages have caused lengthy wait times at security and check-in desks in recent months – with problems only set to get worse as the school holidays begin later this month when strike action is planned at Heathrow.
Returning passengers have also faced waiting hours to get their luggage back after flights have landed, with bags and suitcases left abandoned on carousels – with some people deciding to sleep on terminal floors.
One passenger waiting at Manchester today tweeted a photograph of a long queue in the airport’s car park shortly before 7am today, saying: ‘If you are flying out of @manairport T3 today, get to the airport as soon as you can. This is currently the security queue – out of the terminal, across the bridge, and into the T3 multi storey car park!’
EasyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew (file picture) has resigned amid growing anger over flight disruption
LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT – Huge queues for security at Heathrow Terminal 2 are outside the terminal this morning
LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT – One passenger at Heathrow this morning said the security line ‘starts outside the terminal’
LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT – A passenger at Heathrow Airport posted this picture of huge crowds at 4am this morning
LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A passenger who got to Heathrow for 4.20am today posted this picture from Terminal Three
Another at Manchester said it was ‘carnage’ amid a ‘massive queue for security’, while a third added: ‘Well done. Today is the worst ever. Actually standing in the car park to wait for security. Good job. Utter shambles.’
And a fourth passenger at Manchester tweeted: ‘Travelling pre pandemic was such a comfortable experience. These days it’s three hours before, on your feet and queues for hours plus the anxiety if the flight will even depart.’
Unions say no to more night flights as they oppose Government’s bid to solve airports crisis
Union bosses have vowed to oppose using night flights to ease travel chaos, it was reported last night.
In yet another blow for holidaymakers, unions said they would push back against plans to relax overnight flight rules that would see staff working ‘anti-social hours’.
Airlines are limited to the number of flights that can run between 11.30pm and 6am at major airports, which often leads to flights being cancelled if they are delayed.
Amid mounting pressure to solve the travel chaos, the Department for Transport said it will consider suspending the rules to ease disruption.
But last night unions vowed to oppose the plans over fears staff could be made to work long hours during the night.
A GMB union source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s not fair to force our members to work nights to pick up the slack for their mistakes.’
It comes as holidaymakers are now facing a summer of travel chaos in Europe as countries across the continent grapple with staff shortages and strikes.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport select committee warned that the plan could ‘annoy the heck out of residents’ but said he was open to finding out more about lifting the night ban.
He added: ‘I don’t see what good that would do and can see what damage that would do. I don’t know if crew will want to fly at two in the morning.’
Elsewhere travellers posted images of huge queues at Heathrow, with one saying: ‘Security line at Heathrow starts outside the terminal! I’m on day two of my battle with this airport. Avoid at all costs. Total mess!’
Another passenger there tweeted a picture of queue outside the entrance at 7am, saying: ‘This is the security line at Heathrow Airport Terminal Two. Yes we are outside. And this is after arriving almost an hour ago.’
There were also big queues at London City, where one passenger said: ‘Big chaos at LCY. Three hours to get through security at 6am. Better to fly out of Stansted with a low cost carrier. Totally out of control, what a mess. This used to be a prime service. All gone wrong. Terrible.’
Another described ‘utter chaos at London City Airport’, while a third tweeted a picture of a huge queue and said: ‘Delayed. Missed connection. Stranded at Heathrow overnight. Rebooked from City. Travel to City at 6am. City…’
In response to the chaos, a London City spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘The average journey time through the airport was 45 minutes this morning.
‘This is longer than usual and was caused by staff sickness and additional passengers who were rebooked onto LCY services from other airports. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. For passengers travelling through London City in the days ahead, to help manage waiting times, we would like to remind them to turn up no more than two hours before their flight.
‘Looking ahead, the airport will be fully staffed, and operationally ready, for the summer getaway.’
And a Manchester Airport spokesman said: ‘We apologise to any passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport this morning was not how they would like it to be.
‘During our ongoing recovery from the pandemic, we continue to advise customers there may be some times when security queues are longer than usual, which is why we advise people to arrive three hours before their flights.
‘This morning, while the vast majority of people passed through security in under 30 minutes, waiting times peaked at more than 60 mins in two of our terminals for a period of time, and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused.’
Sources at the airport said that in addition to the longer queues in security, they were also aware of the longer queues that built up in check in with several airlines.
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: At Manchester today, one passenger said they had been ‘standing in car park for 30 minutes already’
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: A passenger at Manchester said the security queue today is going ‘into the T3 multi storey car park’
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers at Manchester Airport are again facing long queues in departures this morning
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Queues in the car park at Manchester Airport this morning as people try to head abroad on holiday
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Chaotic scenes at Manchester Airport which passengers tweeted pictures of this morning
And a source at Heathrow told MailOnline: ‘There will be some queues during peak periods over the summer, but we are doing everything we can to ensure passengers get away on their journeys as smoothly as possible.’
Ryanair records busiest month ever in June as it flies 15.9m passengers
Ryanair had its busiest month ever in June as it flew 15.9million passengers, up from just 5.3million a year earlier and topping a previous high set in May.
Its load factor, which measures how well an airline is filling available seats, reached 95 per cent for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, said it operated over 88,500 flights in June as its load factor rose from 92 per cent a month earlier, when it flew 15.4 million passengers.
Ryanair’s load factor regularly reached at least 96 per cent a month before the pandemic and hit 97 per cent in June 2019.
The low cost airline expects to fly 15 per cent more passengers this summer than in the same season of 2019, and will carry a record 165million passengers in the year to March 2023. It carried just under 100million passengers in the year to March 2022 and its pre-Covid record high was 149 million.
Ryanair said last week that less than 2 per cent of its flights were affected by an initial wave of strikes by cabin crew unions in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. It added on Saturday that it expected ‘minimal (if any) disruption’ from 12 more strike days announced by some Spain-based cabin crew for later this month.
It comes after Heathrow faced another day of chaos yesterday as huge queues and lost luggage caused reported ‘flare ups’ between employees and holidaymakers.
Similar issues were described by those departing from both Gatwick and Stansted yesterday – although there were no early reports of issues at either this morning.
Heathrow said it did not recognise the picture described by travellers yesterday and that the airport had been ‘busy but flowing’.
Triple the number of passengers are due to fly in and out of Britain’s airports this summer compared with last year. But hundreds of flights are being delayed or cancelled as there are not enough staff to cope with the booming demand. British Airways flights from Heathrow are expected to bear the brunt of another round of cancellations this week.
It comes as 700 of the airline’s staff at the airport voted to strike later this month just as children start their school holidays.
One passenger described facing 90-minute queues at Heathrow Terminal 2 yesterday between arriving and getting through security.
Craig Lester, 49, claimed tensions had boiled over at times causing ‘flare ups’ between the public and staff.
The TV engineer from Devon, who was travelling to Shannon, Ireland, said: ‘There simply is not enough space to queue. At security it is lengthy wait times. I hate to see what it will look like during school holidays in August.’
Heathrow said the parts of the chain it operated were working fine, claiming that it was recording security waits no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Check-in and baggage handling meanwhile are the responsibility of the airlines, it said.
Another traveller arriving into Terminal 3 from the US on Saturday described baggage reclaim as a ‘scene from a disaster movie’ with lost luggage everywhere
Adam Kent from Worcestershire described ‘lost luggage everywhere’ that was causing a ‘serious health and safety issue’.
He said: ‘No one visible on the ground to explain the carnage or sort out the mess, it seems like lots of luggage has not arrived with passengers and just been dumped.’
LONDON CITY AIRPORT: Those flying out of London City today described ‘utter chaos’ and an airport ‘totally out of control’
LONDON CITY AIRPORT: Huge queues for security at London City today which one passenger said were three hours long
Stansted Airport reportedly saw similar issues yesterday with long queues just to get out of the train station and then again at check-in desks, where some people were spotted sleeping on the floor.
And a passenger at Gatwick yesterday told how there was only one person operating check-in and the lack of buses to take passengers to the plane meant they missed their departure slot. He tweeted: ‘queues, queues, queues everywhere!’
Airlines have until Friday to take advantage of a government ‘amnesty’ to the rules on airport slots allowing them to change schedules without facing a potential penalty.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is trying to alleviate flight disruption this summer to avert the mayhem seen over the Easter and Jubilee holidays.
The Government has ordered the vetting centre carrying out checks on new recruits to prioritise airport staff to help plug the gaps quicker.
The Department for Transport said counter-terrorist and accreditation checks were now being completed in record times.
The GMB and Unite Unions are expected to set strike dates for the BA Heathrow staff for around July 22. The dispute is over a 10 per cent pay cut that check-in and ground-handling staff took during the Covid pandemic. The unions want the full pay reinstated.
Further industrial action will also take place in Spain with Easyjet workers planning two more strikes later this month following the first last week. The 72-hour strikes will involve hundreds of crew at their airline’s bases in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma.