Unacceptable: Airlines slammed for pandemic job cuts as travel crisis rages
Airports and airlines have been blamed for severely slashing staff roles amid the pandemic, as holidaymakers face lengthy queues and disruption.
A government source has told The Times that delays and flight cancellations are “completely unacceptable” as Brits have been warned to expect more chaos ahead of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday.
“The simple fact is that airlines and airports overcut staff during the pandemic, ignoring the fact that the billions of pounds of aid — including furlough — handed out by the government was meant to protect those very jobs,” the source told the newspaper.
“Operators are now struggling to meet increasingly busy schedules as we move towards the first Covid-free summer since 2019 — a wholly foreseeable surge in bookings that should have been adequately prepared for,” they added.
Airlines and airports were running the risk of missing out on the rewards of a booming recovery of international travel, the source said.
But according to shadow financial secretary James Murray, the sector is not the only one to blame.
Murray accused the government of failing to step up and not preparing for the rise in travel demand.
“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,” he told Sky News.
“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.”
Murray’s words echoed those of aviation analyst Sally Gethin who accused the government of playing the hero after abandoning the sector during the pandemic.
“During aviation’s darkest days in the pandemic, aviation was left out in the cold and suffered devastating financial and operational losses,” she previously told City A.M.
“The government abandoned the aviation sector in a crisis, but is now acting the hero coming to the rescue.”
It comes after many angry holidaymakers took to social media yesterday to complain of long queues or cancelled getaways, including easyJet who today cancelled an additional 42 flights after axing more than 200 during the weekend.
Angry travellers mocked the airline on social media, suggesting it should names for a future rebranding.
“Should easyJet be renamed stayJet,” joked one user while another posted a picture which read “difficultJet.”
TUI reportedly told hundreds of holidaymakers that their trip was cancelled.
Hundreds of TUI clients were told via text and email that their upcoming trip was no longer happening.
A spokesperson for TUI said: “We’d like to apologise to customers impacted by cancellations and delays this weekend, caused by various operational and supply chain issues.
“We’d like to reassure customers that we are doing everything we can to minimise delays and would like to thank them their patience and understanding during this time.”
Yesterday, Birmingham airport warned passengers to arrive in time, as the hub is expecting a “busy platinum Jubilee weekend,” while Heathrow said it reported a morning peak but queues were still flowing.
Commenting on the situation, Peter Davies, chief executive of aviation solutions provider Airline Management Group, said it was natural for demand to increase ahead of the Jubilee Bank Holiday.
“I think it’s natural for people to go away on holiday. It’s not a surprise that hotter weeks tend to be particularly busy – particularly in Jubilee week – and the fact we’ve been cooped up for a couple of years,” he told LBC this morning.
“So there was no surprise there that people would flock back and fly. Indeed, the bookings have been increasing for many months now. So it comes as no surprise.”
Airlines and airports are not the only ones to report significant queues.
Eurostar passengers complained today about being forced to wait in hour-long queues outside London St Pancras.
“Thousands of people, queues snaking around the station, out into the street and back in again. Shocking mismanagement,” one customer told the PA news agency, while another complained of “waiting outside in the rain.”
“Unfortunately we had a technical fault on a train earlier this morning which meant we had to take it out of service,” Eurostar said in a statement.
“As a consequence, there are delays of 30-60 minutes on departure in London St Pancras.”