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Government ‘hasn’t prepared’ for rise in demand for foreign holidays

Government ‘hasn’t prepared’ for rise in demand for foreign holidays

Ministers have been accused of failing to “step up” as holidaymakers using UK airports continue to suffer major disruption.

Shadow financial secretary to the Treasury James Murray claimed the Government “hasn’t prepared” for the rise in demand for travel.

A spokeswoman for the Government insisted the aviation industry is “responsible for making sure they have enough staff to meet demand”.

Airline passengers have been hit by cancellations and long delays at airports for several months, with the situation appearing to worsen this week during the half-term school holiday and ahead of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period.

Aviation data firm Cirium said 291 departures from major UK airports have been cancelled between May 25 and Tuesday.

Tui Airways will cancel around six flights at Manchester Airport every day until the end of June.

The airline said in a statement this is due to “ongoing challenges in our operation”.

In response, the airport said the carrier and its ground handler, Swissport, are suffering from staff shortages and are experiencing “significant challenges with their check-in and baggage reclaim operations”.

It added: “We understand Tui’s difficult decision to cancel a number of services over the course of the next month, although we are obviously disappointed to see passengers’ plans disrupted in this way.”

EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick on Tuesday.

British Airways is continuing to cancel dozens of flights each day, although the airline said passengers are being told several days in advance.

Passengers at airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Bristol are reporting long delays.

The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after thousands were let go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many airlines and airports repeatedly called for more financial support due to the collapse in demand for travel caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

They are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.

Labour MP Mr Murray told Sky News: “We’ve been warning for months throughout the Covid pandemic that you can’t just let the airline industry and airports fall over, let them shed all of their staff, and then expect to get back on track when demand comes back after the pandemic.

“We were warning about this, trade unions were warning about this, employee representatives were saying throughout the Covid pandemic, ‘You need a sector-specific package to support the aviation sector’, and now we’re seeing what’s happened because the Government hasn’t prepared for what would obviously come next.”

Arts minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay acknowledged that cancelled flights and long queues at UK airports are “causing a lot of distress for people, particularly in half-term”.

Asked about Government action over the airport disruption, he told Sky News: “Colleagues in the Department for Transport are working with the industry. We have been for months urging them to make sure they’ve got enough staff so that, thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout, as people are able to travel again, that people can take the holidays that they’ve missed and that they’ve deserved and of course it’s causing a lot of distress for people, particularly in half-term, people with family and children with them.

“It’s very distressing if you turn up at the airport and your flight isn’t ready, so we’ve been saying to the industry that they need to prepare for this, they need to have the staff that they need to make sure people can get away and enjoy holidays.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps introduced legislation last month to allow new aviation recruits to begin training before passing security checks to reduce the time it takes for them to start work.

A Government spokeswoman said airports are “busier than usual” due to “an exceptionally high number of people travelling” this week.

She continued: “The aviation industry is responsible for making sure they have enough staff to meet demand and we have been clear that they must step up recruitment to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.

“In addition, using our post-Brexit freedoms, we have changed the law to provide the sector with more flexibility when training new employees, which will help it to fill vacancies more quickly.

“We have also worked with Border Force to ensure preparations meet passenger demand.”

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham said those in charge of UK aviation companies “should hang their heads in shame”.

She went on: “They got very rich on high profits and low pay. They then sacked and slashed wages for thousands of workers without a second thought during the pandemic. Now they are reaping what they have sown because, understandably, people don’t want to work for them anymore.”

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said there are “staff shortages across the industry” and a “huge reliance on overtime to get by day to day”.

He went on: “In many areas, like air traffic control, overtime is only a temporary sticking plaster.

“So, things could get worse this summer before they get better.”

Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2022-05-31 13:30:00.

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