Grant Shapps grilled about travel chaos in UK airports
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Holidaymakers arriving at airports over the weekend faced mayhem as flight after flight to was cancelled amid continuing staff shortages. EasyJet cancelled 60 services to and from the UK, Wizz Air scrapped seven flights and British Airways axed 124 Heathrow flights, although the airline said affected passengers were given advance notice.
It left families stranded across the world as half-term came to an end, Daily Mirror reports.
But today John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport chief, warned the chaos could last a further 18 months.
“I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity,” he said.
He added airports need to “plan much better” to avoid further cancellations.
Schools break up for the summer in just seven weeks but airports are struggling to fill vacancies to reach full capacity.
I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer at Heathrow Airport
Kully Sandhu, managing director of Aviation Recruitment Network, said it was battling to fill more than 250 posts, from baggage handlers and shop workers to lorry drivers.
Some companies were offering signing-on bonuses of “anything from £500 to between £1,500 and £2,000,” Mr Sandu added.
He said: “It could be up to 12 months before we see staffing at airports back to pre-pandemic levels.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, represents independent travel agents.
She said: “About 30% of all calls that they’re receiving now are from customers who have bookings for July and August and they are worried.”
Ali Haynes, her partner and five-month-old baby arrived at Luton airport three hours before their easyJet flight for Palermo was due to depart, only to learn the plane had been grounded.
She said: “We’re now stuck in Luton departures with no information on what next. Holiday ruined.”
And Matt Wheeler, 37, said he and his partner had to make emergency childcare arrangements after finding out their easyJet flight home from Amsterdam had been cancelled on Sunday.
He said: “It’s a farce… didn’t know about the cancellation until we arrived at the airport at 3.30am, no easyJet staff or any staff that could help us.
“We now have to try and arrange family members to pick our kids up from school/childminders this afternoon and then have them overnight and take them to school tomorrow.
“They’ll have to take time off work (and) we will now miss a day’s work tomorrow as we won’t be home.”
Thousands of British Airways workers have been balloted for industrial action.
Engineers for the firm at Heathrow, Gatwick and in Scotland and call centre staff in Newcastle and Manchester are involved in the strike ballot, it is understood.
Meanwhile, hundreds of their BA check-in colleagues at Heathrow began voting today on whether to go on strike in a row over pay.
The GMB union said it was because a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic has not been reinstated.
National officer Nadine Houghton said: “British Airways faces a gruelling summer of travel chaos if they won’t give these workers what’s theirs.”
BA hit back: “It’s disappointing. After two years which saw the business lose £4billion, these colleagues were offered a 10% payment for this year which was rejected.”
Wizz Air apologised for the cancellations, as did easyJet, which added it operated more than 1,600 flights yesterday.
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