Inaction from Rishi Sunak and Grant Shapps contributed to the “predictable” and “preventable” delays and cancellations that have crippled airports across the country, the boss of a leading airline services company has said.
The aviation industry is suffering major disruption as a surge in demand for travel coincides with staffing issues across roles such as airline crew, ground handlers, airport security staff and air traffic controllers.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled and many passengers have been forced to wait for several hours in long queues at airports.
Philipp Joeinig, chief executive of Menzies Aviation, says requests from the industry for Government help in minimising staff shortages fuelled by Brexit and the pandemic have not resulted in “forthcoming” help, exacerbating the current crisis.
“Predictable and preventable”
Mr Joeinig said the industry unsuccessfully lobbied the Treasury during the pandemic, with Mr Sunak then serving as chancellor, for targeted aid following the end of the Government’s furlough schemes.
Writing in The Times, he said: “The present travel disruption is not because of a single point of failure, with staffing issues affecting the whole market. Not only was this predictable, it was also preventable.
“Brexit had a big negative impact, reducing the available pool of employees.
“This was compounded during the pandemic, with the British aviation sector suffering huge job losses once furlough schemes ended before the easing of travel restrictions — and with many of these people lost to the industry forever.
“The aviation sector lobbied the government at the time to provide sector-specific aid to retain its skilled, security-cleared people to avoid staff shortages. This was not forthcoming for aviation services businesses.”
Mr Joeinig also called on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to provide “practical action” from the Government to urgently address staff shortages.
He said: “We support the intention of the Government’s 22-point action plan to tackle travel disruption, but we call on it to recognise aviation as a special case.
“It should allow the sector time to recruit beyond the UK by adding aviation workers to the shortage occupation list.
“We also need a reduction in reference checks and a fast-track process introduced without delay, with mutual recognition by authorities of security training and employee background records.”
Both Mr Sunak and Mr Shapps have put their names forward as candidates to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.