The UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has accused air carriers of driving disruption at the country’s airports by selling tickets beyond their capacity to deliver.

Shapps told this during a meeting with leaders of from the aviation industry, including airports, airlines and ground handling companies.

The meeting was called on an urgent basis by the government to discuss the current chaos at UK airports resulting from the cancellation of thousands of flights.

According to British broadcaster and telecommunications company Sky UK, more than 150 flights were cancelled by the UK’s flag carrier British Airways and easyJet on Wednesday.

During the meet, Shapps also underlined that the tickets were unfairly sold to passengers for holidays they cannot go on.

Discussions will be carried out on options for offering automatic refunds to travellers, he said.

He also underlined that airlines should have been prepared well in advance to cope with the surge in passenger demand following two years of travel closures.

Shapps said: “Today’s meeting was a chance to hear from airports and airlines first-hand what went wrong this week. The scenes we’re witnessing at airports are heart-breaking, with holidaymakers missing out on their first trips abroad after the pandemic.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely to make sure consumers don’t lose out from any further disruption. Both myself and the Aviation Minister have made the changes needed to allow the sector to prepare for summer, but now we need industry to do their bit.

“We have been crystal clear – run services properly and according to schedule or provide swift, appropriate compensation. We do not want to see a repeat of this over the summer – the first post-COVID-19 summer season – and will be meeting again in the coming weeks to understand the progress that is being made.”

The UK government and the aviation industry will form a working group ahead of the summer holidays to address the issues of shared concern. Additionally, Shapps and the UK Aviation Minister Robert Courts reiterated that the government is committed to supporting the industry.