The Department for Transport and regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, wrote to carriers telling them to ensure summer timetables were “deliverable”, the BBC reports.
Cancellations were ‘better than axing flights at the last minute,’ they added.
It comes after tens of thousands of passengers were affected by cancellations and delays at airports.
The problem was particularly bad during last month's half-term school holiday, and British Airways, TUI and Easyjet have apologised.
Staff shortages have been blamed after thousands of airline jobs were cut during the pandemic and have yet to be replaced despite a spike in post-pandemic travel demand.
Airlines and unions told the Commons Business Committee that staffing shortages blighting the industry were likely to persist this summer.
Oliver Richardson, of the Unite union, told MPs it was unlikely the situation would be fixed "unless we work together".