The chaos at UK airports has caused hundreds of flights to be delayed and the vacation plans of thousands disrupted as politicians and travel bosses point fingers over who is to blame.
The Observer reported that aviation minister Robert Courts was warned by unions earlier this year that widespread disruption was ‘inevitable’ and that government intervention was needed to prevent problems in UK airports.
The courts were told in late January “that the industry would not be able to cope with high demand unless it received aid to make up for chronic staff shortages”, the newspaper said.
The union bosses’ predictions ‘unfolded in sometimes far-fetched scenes’ last week as hundreds of flights were canceled during one of the busiest times of the year, leading to ‘delays of a day and massive queues that wind their way out of the terminals”.
“Brexit plus Covid”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the travel chaos was “self-inflicted by the government” and said the chaos was due to “Brexit plus Covid”, the Independent reported.
Speaking on BBC1 Sunday morninghe called on the government to ease immigration rules to allow EU workers who returned to their home countries as a result of Brexit to return to the UK to fill gaps left in the industry by their departure.
Khan said the government could “very easily” ensure these people “are encouraged to return” to the jobs they had before returning to their home countries.
“What the government needs to do is get around the table with the aviation industry, the airports, those who run the airlines, to see exactly what their problems are. If there is a shortage, modify the list to ensure that these [workers] can come easier than other professions,” he added.
Aviation staff cut ‘too deep’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied that aviation staff shortages were caused by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and instead pointed to staff cuts made by the industry during the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19, which he said were “too deep”.
He rejected calls for lighter immigration measures for EU aviation workers who want to work in the UK, and said it was up to airlines instead to attract British workers by offering higher salaries. He said Sunday morningit is Sophie Raworth: “The answer may not always be to press the lever marked ‘More immigration’.”
“We see the same problems all over Europe. If it was only Brexit, there would be no problem at Schiphol [airport in Amsterdam] or elsewhere. So that clearly cannot be true,” he said.
“I did not vote for Brexit, but the country did and we have made our choice. We want an economy where wages and skills are high. This means that the aviation sector, like all other sectors – as the truck driver sector has now done – need to train people nationally,” he said.
Shapps also rejected a call from Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary to call in the military to ease the disruption, a request made to The Times on Saturday.
Shapps said the government was looking at ways to get compensation for their missed or delayed holidays, including automatic refunds for canceled holidays “more like how ‘deferred refund’ works on trains,” he said. .