Travelers have already endured long waits at terminals in recent weeks, which has been attributed to a surge in airport staff absenteeism due to the coronavirus. Experts warn that the situation could drag on into the summer
(Image: Rick Findler / Story Picture Agency)
Holidaymakers are facing a summer of travel chaos at Britain’s ‘catastrophically understaffed’ airports, a Border Force union boss has warned.
Travelers have already endured long waits at terminals in recent weeks, which has been attributed to a surge in airport staff absenteeism due to the coronavirus.
But critics say the “mess” is also due to airlines and other travel companies laying off large numbers of staff.
Experts warn the situation could stretch into the summer and beyond.
Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union said: “Not only are we going into this summer but this weekend, catastrophically understaffed.”
It comes amid a surge in demand after Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
Rick Findler / Story Picture Agency)
British Airways canceled a further 74 flights today, 10 more than on Monday. easyJet also canceled a further 38, although passengers were informed last week and most were able to get on other flights.
Some Border Force staff have been posted to Dover to look after migrants crossing the English Channel.
It has meant officials have had to be called in from elsewhere to deal with the crowds at Heathrow, some lured with bonuses.
Wayne King, Unite Regional Coordination Officer: “Whenever there are school holidays they will go up, but I think the summer is going to be really bad unless they see an increase in employment.”
Mr King said the situation was similar at other UK airports. Passengers reported waiting up to 90 minutes to clear check-in and security at Manchester Airport.
Tory Huw Merriman MP, chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, said one problem is attracting enough airport staff, as applicants are in demand amid a wider staff shortage.
Mr Merriman said a smaller airport he spoke to with 700 employees would need to hire 400 more. Another said 50% of the jobs offered went elsewhere, made worse by the 23 days it took for security checks and five years of references.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren insisted the airline was not short of crew, but said the cancellations were instead due to 10% of crew – and 20% at some bases – being absent after testing positive for Covid-19 be.
British Airways, which was slammed in 2020 due to a fire and a reinstatement purge, has now been forced to offer sign-up bonuses of £1,000 for some roles.
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “BA is reaping what it sows. Former employees, by the thousands, will not forget this. No amount of stimulus can burn that out from the collective memory of those who have suffered at the hands of BA bosses.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, accused the government of “staying in action”.
She said: “They have been warned of staffing shortages and yet the Tories have comprehensively failed to take action to address the security backlog that is hampering recruitment. They need to get their act together, get their work done and act to mitigate the disruption by prioritizing the huge backlog at security checks.”
Mr Merriman admitted: “It’s going to be very challenging.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/millions-brits-face-easter-getaway-26698453 Millions of Britons face Easter holiday chaos due to 'chronic understaffing'