The Workers Union is standing up for airport staff by asking people to ‘think twice’ about blaming them for the recent air travel chaos.
In a statement released this morning, a spokesperson for the organisation said: ‘We understand that people are very frustrated about the delays they’ve experienced to their travel plans. In many cases, families have saved long and hard for a well-deserved break after two years of COVID-related disruption. Unfortunately the long shadow cast by the pandemic continues to affect staffing levels. Many workers quit the industry for sectors with lower exposure to the virus, and those who have opted to return now find themselves in need of additional training.’
Skilled Job Losses
The announcement came after bosses at Gatwick airport revealed that they have cut daily flights in August so that passengers can ‘experience a more reliable and better standard of service.’
The decision to limit flights at Gatwick comes hot on the heels of a difficult half-term week for the aviation industry, where airports were gripped with queues and holidaymakers were subjected to flight disruption and crowded conditions.
In a quote obtained by Sky News, the chief executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye said that ‘we should not be surprised’ by the challenges faced by the aviation industry. ‘Across the sector,’ Mr Holland-Kaye said, ‘very skilled jobs have been lost and it does mean that as an industry we are having to recruit people back, train them up again to be able to serve passengers, and that just takes time.
‘It’s very easy to slam the brakes on the industry, lead to enormous job losses, but much harder to scale it up again.’
Fight or flight
The image of people sat slumped on their suitcases waiting for a flight, seems to be as emblematic of the British summer time as ribbons of cars stuck in traffic jams or the mad scramble to pack up a picnic before the heavens break. But filing it away with other cliches gives it an unreal quality that masks the real and present problems in an industry that has suffered more than most during COVID.
A year into the pandemic, reports emerged that 5,000 UK aviation and related jobs had been lost every month since February 2020. That takes time to recover from – particularly when many workers moved on to industries that offered them greater job security.
Bosses now need to take the initiative and work on the recruitment and retention of staff. They must also assuage fears that their primary motivation is profit above jobs and staff wellbeing.
None of this is easy, but one thing is for sure: The hard working people that staff our airports are doing their best in difficult circumstances. It is in our character as a nation to offer them support as they wrestle with situations that are often beyond their control.