Shapps ‘risks travel chaos by ruling out emergency visas for aviation workers’ | Transportation

The Transport Secretary is rejecting calls for an emergency visa for aviation workers to tackle the airport chaos that marred the midterm vacation, industry bosses have reportedly claimed.

Industry sources speaking to the BBC have accused Grant Shapps of ruling out addressing staffing shortages on the ground and in the air by changing the government’s shortage occupations list.

Understaffed UK airports have struggled to cope with a mid-term surge in demand, with tourists hit by long queues and flight cancellations.

More than 30,000 employees have been made redundant by UK airlines in the past two years. The half-term is the industry’s first major test since the UK’s Covid travel restrictions were lifted in March, with an airport chief saying it takes time to rebuild the workforce.

Although queues appeared to have eased on Thursday, there are fears the industry may not be able to cope with the resurgence in demand in July and August.

The Department of Transport and the aviation industry have set up a group to discuss easing travel issues in time for the summer holidays.

Privately, bosses questioned why some people – including chefs and ballet dancers – were eligible for a skilled worker visa while aviation employees were not.

Ian Costigan, acting chief executive of Manchester Airport, said: “Since the start of the year, we have been working to recruit the people we need to support the resumption of our operations. It takes time due to lengthy background checks and training, but we were really encouraged by the level of interest. »

The airport has recruited 340 people this year, and another 500 have gone through security checks.

Shapps met with aviation industry bosses on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the travel chaos. Then he said that resource constraints on the sector “do not excuse poor planning and overbooking of the flights they [airlines] cannot serve”. He said he had also raised concerns that airline passengers were being unfairly sold tickets for vacations they could not go on.

The GMB union, which represents many aviation workers, accused the Transport Secretary of being dishonest about the comments, given that staffing issues “have been on the radar for a long time”.

Andy Prendergast, GMB’s national secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “It was unfortunately a predictable problem. This was an issue we warned about at the time the mass layoffs were made.

“We asked the government to consider the aviation industry as a special case and they refused. And now, quite frankly, for Grant Shapps to go out the way he has for the past 24 hours is a little disingenuous given how long these issues have been on the radar.

Among those attending Wednesday’s meeting with Shapps were British Airways, easyJet and Tui – all of whom canceled – while airports represented included Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Luton and Newcastle.

The Department for Transport said the government and the aviation industry would form a task force ahead of the summer recess to “work together on issues of mutual interest”.

Data from airline Cirium shows that 377 flights from UK airports were canceled in the seven days to and including Tuesday.

The air travel disruption had eased on Thursday, with queues at Heathrow down to a quarter of the length of a few days ago.

Nonetheless, mid-term holidaymakers have been warned to expect road travel issues as the four-day bank holiday begins.

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More than 19 million drivers are expected to hit the road over the Platinum Jubilee weekend, according to an AA survey.

Andy Marchant, a traffic expert at location-based technology company TomTom, said motorists could expect high levels of congestion as people traveled the roads amid celebrations for the Queen’s 70th birthday on the throne.

City of London Police have warned of road closures in the capital from Thursday evening to Friday afternoon due to the Royal Family’s attendance at a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. Meanwhile, Jubilee street parties, the majority of which are expected to take place on Sunday, will see many routes closed.

Eurostar, which has also suffered major delays this week, warned on Thursday morning that customers could expect further disruption after a fatality on tracks in northern France.

In a statement on social media, the train operator wrote: “Please arrive at the station at the time indicated on your ticket. If you miss your connection, please speak to a member of our staff. We apologize for the impact this might have on your plans.