In Great Britain, airports are suffering from staff shortages. Passengers have to wait for hours, flights are canceled at short notice. Similar problems could also come to Germany.
At the beginning of summertime, the desire to travel has returned. According to Eurocontrol, the European organization for the safety of aviation, there were already more than 28,100 flights a day in Europe last week, which corresponds to almost 86 percent of the pre-crisis level. Aviation and tourism are about to start again, which is becoming a test of nerves due to a lack of staff. Travel chaos has already set in in the UK.
Hours of waiting at UK airports
In the past few days, passengers have had to queue for hours in front of security checks and counters. In the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, the check-in line sometimes even reached the street in front of the building. The planes take off with massive delays, and several flights are canceled at short notice. Some holidaymakers commute from airport to airport hoping for an alternative – only to end up stuck. The reason for the problems is the lack of staff in every corner. From passenger control to aircraft handling to flight attendants: there is a shortage of workers in all areas who were looking for other jobs during the pandemic.
The UK government and aviation industry blame each other for the chaos. “Despite government warnings, providers have significantly overbooked flights and holiday deals compared to what they can deliver,” the “Welt” quoted British Transport Minister Grant Shapps as saying. Airlines and the tourism industry, on the other hand, accuse the government of letting them down for a long time. Industry association Airlines UK said the industry had just a few weeks to prepare for summer after travel restrictions were lifted in March. In addition, it is currently almost impossible to find staff, a representative of the GMB union told the BBC.
Compensating for the tens of thousands of layoffs in airlines, ground staff and flight security is hardly possible. Also because the training of new staff takes time. Comprehensive training and many security checks take several weeks. At Manchester Airport, for example, hundreds of new employees have been hired but are not yet operational. Brexit further exacerbates the problem: EU citizens have traditionally taken on many jobs in tourism and aviation. Due to the new immigration rules, these workers are missing. The government refuses to issue special visas for jobs in the travel industry.
Ryanair boss proposes use of military
The situation at British airports could deteriorate further over the Pentecost weekend. Many Britons will use spring break and the holidays to mark the platinum anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. Two million trips abroad and around 19,000 flights are expected. The boss of the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has proposed an unusual measure: temporary help from the military. Deploying the armed forces there, as is done at other airports, would take the pressure off airport security staff in one fell swoop, Michael O’Leary told ITV on Thursday.
The low-cost airline Easyjet, on the other hand, feels compelled to reduce seats. In the British sub-fleet, the rear row of seats will be removed from all Airbus A319 aircraft this summer. Six fewer seats mean that, according to current security codes, the airline only has to have three flight attendants in the cabin for the remaining 150 passengers instead of the previous four. Nevertheless, the airline has announced that it will cancel 24 flights a day up to and including June 6th.
Staff shortages as a global crisis
Although the shortage of staff in Great Britain is currently particularly noticeable, airports around the world are struggling with similar problems. The crisis has long been global, so that the airline association Iata has also taken on the matter. He proposes globally standardized training content so that ground staff and pilots can be deployed anywhere in the world. In addition, recruitment must be improved and security checks streamlined.
In Germany, the airport works councils estimate the additional need for 5,500 people nationwide. “Across all locations, the service providers involved in handling passengers are missing around 20 percent of the ground staff compared to the pre-Corona period. This can lead to bottlenecks, especially at check-in, when loading suitcases and at air security checks at peak times,” says the general manager of the airport association ADV, Ralph Beisel.
Sources: German Press Agency, “Die Welt”