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

Airline passengers have been hit by cancellations and long delays at airports for several months, with the situation appearing to worsen this week.

31 May 2022

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.

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.

EasyJet and British Airways are cancelling flights every day, while passengers at airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester 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.”

He added: “The Government was not working with the airlines to get that sector-specific package in place during the pandemic.”

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.”

He added: “We’ve been using some of our post-Brexit freedoms to make sure that people can be hired more quickly, but this is something the industry… some of the regulations can be met, but be met speedily, but we’ve been saying to the industry for quite some time, they should have been preparing for this.”

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.

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