Heathrow chief warns of 18 months of aviation industry disruption

The chief executive of London Heathrow airport, the UK’s largest, has warned it will take the aviation industry up to 18 months to rehire staff and bring operations back to pre-pandemic levels , after a grueling period of disruptions and cancellations.

John Holland-Kaye said airlines and airports need to “plan much better” to avoid further cancellations and delays this summer, and to give passengers ample notice if their flight is affected.

“I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity, so we will have to manage supply and demand very carefully . . . to make sure we can give people a good experience. predictable,” he told the Financial Times Global Boardroom conference.

The aviation industry cut tens of thousands of jobs during the pandemic and is now struggling to rehire after travel demand fell very rapidly this year.

“What we have seen at some UK airports over the past few weeks is that supply and demand have been out of balance. . . we have to make sure we plan a lot better,” he said.

Passengers have been warned to expect continued disruption over the busy summer period as air traffic control delays across Europe add to staff shortages.

Heathrow has asked airlines to reduce passenger numbers at certain times of the day during the summer to reduce overcrowding, while airlines such as British Airways and easyJet have reduced flight times to try to avoid too much traffic last minute cancellations.

But a series of further cancellations over the weekend have left thousands of British holidaymakers stranded abroad after taking half-term vacations last week. EasyJet canceled a further 60 UK flights on Tuesday, adding to the 500 canceled by airlines over the four-day bank holiday weekend.

John Holland-Kaye: “I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover its capacity” © Jason Alden/Bloomberg

The airline said 1,600 flights carrying a quarter of a million customers operated smoothly across Europe on Tuesday, but apologized to those caught up in the disruptions in recent days. “We are very sorry and fully understand the disruption this will have caused to our customers,” easyJet said.

A passenger told the BBC he spent £6,000 on new flights, accommodation and food for three families after their return flight from Crete was canceled by easyJet on Monday.

Another, Michael Norman, who told the FT on Monday he was spending at least £750 on new travel plans to bring two people back from Portugal, said large groups or families without a credit card or the means to pay thousands of pounds in new fares We’re screwed”.

The aviation industry has suffered from staff shortages globally, but the problems have been particularly pronounced in the UK.

Holland-Kaye said ministers could help by further relaxing rules on security background checks for new staff, and that employers should have access to HM Revenue & Customs records to check candidates’ employment backgrounds.

“They could give us access to data in an instant and get people to work two months faster, that would make a huge difference,” he said.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said his company was expecting 700 newcomers to complete training and vetting, and called on the government to do more to help the industry.

“Given the backlog, the government should dedicate more resources to expediting the security checks that need to take place before people can work in an airport environment and find smarter ways to do those checks,” a- he declared.

The Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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