Shapps risks travel chaos by excluding emergency visa for airline workers | Transportation

The transport minister has rejected calls for an emergency visa for airline workers to tackle the chaos at airports that has marred the half-term holiday, industry chiefs have claimed.

Industry sources who spoke to the BBC have accused Grant Shapps of ruling out the shortage of ground and air staff by amending the list of government jobs that are in short supply.

Understaffed UK airports have struggled to deal with rising demand during the half-term, as long queues and flight cancellations hit tourists.

More than 30,000 employees have been laid off by British airlines in the past two years. The half term is the first significant test in the industry since the UK’s Covid travel restrictions were lifted in March, with the head of one airport saying it was taking time to rebuild staff numbers.

Although the waiting lists had cleared up by Thursday, there were concerns that the industry would not be able to handle the surge in demand in July and August.

The Department of Transportation and the airline industry have formed a group to discuss easing travel issues in time for the summer holidays.

Notably, chiefs questioned why some people — including chefs and ballerinas — were eligible for a skilled worker visa while airline employees were not.

Ian Costigan, Interim Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said: “Since the beginning of the year we have been working to recruit the people we need to support the recovery of our operations. This takes time given the lengthy background checks and training involved, but the level of interest has really encouraged us.”

The airport has recruited 340 people this year, with another 500 undergoing security checks.

Shapps met with airline industry chiefs Wednesday afternoon to discuss the travel chaos. After that, he said, resource pressures on the sector “do not justify poor planning and overbooking of flights.” [airlines] Can’t serve.” He said he conveyed concerns about airline passengers unfairly selling tickets for holidays they can’t go.

The GMB union, which represents many aviation workers, accused the transport minister of being disingenuous over the comments, given that issues with staffing levels “have been on the radar for a long time”.

Andy Prendergast, national secretary for GMB, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Unfortunately, this was a foreseeable problem. We had warned of it the moment the workers were being laid off en masse.”

We asked the government to view the airline industry as a special case and they refused. Now, quite frankly, Grant Shapps’ exit as it has been in the last 24 hours is a bit disingenuous considering these problems have been on the radar for so long.”

Among those present at Wednesday’s meeting with Shapps were British Airways, easyJet and TUI – all canceled – while airports represented included Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Luton and Newcastle.

The Department of Transportation said the government and the airline industry would form a working group before the summer holidays “to work through issues of mutual interest together”.

Data from airline Cirium said 377 flights were canceled from UK airports in the seven days to Tuesday.

The disruption to air travel had abated by Thursday, with queues at Heathrow said to have been a quarter of the length of the past two days.

However, half-term vacationers have been warned to expect road travel problems as the four-day bank holiday begins.

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More than 19 million drivers are expected to take to the roads during the Platinum Jubilee holiday, according to a survey by the AA.

Andy Marchant, a traffic expert at location technology company TomTom, said motorists can expect high levels of congestion as people travel on the roads amid celebrations of the Queen’s 70th anniversary.

City of London Police have warned that roads in the capital will be closed from Thursday evening until Friday afternoon due to members of the royal family attending a Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral. Meanwhile, Jubilee Street parties, the majority of which are expected to take place on Sundays, will result in many road closures.

Eurostar, which has also suffered severe delays this week, warned Thursday morning that customers could expect more disruption after a death on rails in northern France.

In a statement on social media, the railway operator wrote: “Please arrive at the station on time on your ticket. If you lose your connection, please speak to one of our staff. We apologize for the impact this may have on your plans.”

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