Airport chaos can be solved by staff working more hours, says minister

·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
·2-min read
Queues at Gatwick Airport this month. A minister has suggested airport staff work longer hours to solve the disruption. (PA)
Queues at Gatwick Airport this month. A minister has suggested airport staff work longer hours to solve the disruption. (PA)

The government has suggested airport staff could work longer hours as a way of solving the UK's huge ongoing flight disruption.

Business minister Paul Scully circulated the idea as passengers continue to suffer the misery of cancelled or delayed flights.

Disruption has been going on for months, with the aviation industry suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scully, speaking to Sky News on Friday, said “those people who can work longer – that want to work longer – can do”.

Read more: When is the UK rail strike and will my train be cancelled?

Large queues at Stansted Airport earlier this month. (PA)
Large queues at Stansted Airport earlier this month. (PA)

He added the government doesn’t want to “force” staff to do this.

Scully's comments come as Gatwick Airport announced it is reducing the number of flights during the summer to help tackle staffing issues.

The airport is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August, compared to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.

Scully, though, said Gatwick and other major airports need to “do more”.

Watch: Labour ‘surprised’ at airlines' ‘lack of strategic thinking’

“We knew the travel industry as a whole was already really hard-pressed through COVID… when you start anything almost from scratch… it takes time to come through and upskills and bring the staff back in.

“Our transport ministers have been working with Healthrow, Gatwick and other airport operators: we do want them to do more. We want to make sure that in a tight labour market there are enough people to staff the roles there.”

Conversely, airports and airlines have accused the government of not doing enough to help, amid tensions throughout the period of disruption. There are major concerns the industry will not be able to cope with a further upsurge in demand in July and August.

Privately, aviation bosses have questioned why some, including chefs and ballet dancers, are entitled to a skilled worker visa while aviation employees are not.

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry accused both parties of failing to show leadership, saying on Friday that on the one hand, airlines and airports "don’t know how to catch up with themselves, I am surprised there has been so little strategic thinking".

She also called on transport secretary Grant Shapps to hold them "to account and not simply put his hands up saying: ‘Nothing to do with me, guv.’

"Come on, show a bit of leadership, call them in, find out what’s happening. Find out how bad this problem is, and are they going to be able to fix it."

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