The chaos at airports is intensely frustrating but we must resist the temptation to accord too much blame to any party involved. Airports and airlines are letting passengers down but there are a lot of factors outside their control.
The reality is a large proportion of staff involved in facilitating any given flight don’t work directly for the airport the plane takes off from, or the airline that owns and runs the plane.
Air Traffic Controllers are mostly NATS employees (National Air Traffic Services), border control officers are Border Force employees while baggage handlers and check in agents are also likely to be employees of a ground handling company. This means airports and airlines only have so much control: they depend on many other public and private entities for the system to run smoothly.
As travel delays and disruption continue across the country, Dr Pavlos Arvanitis, Senior Lecturer in Aviation Management at the University of Bedfordshire says airports and airlines are faced with a very complex problem and it is unfair to judge them too harshly for the recent failures.
“In addition fixing staff shortages can only be a slow process. The aftershock of the pandemic is a major factor. Airlines have struggled to reemploy staff to pre-pandemic levels as trained workers have moved to sectors with more job security, where the risk of redundancy and Covid-19 related disruption is lower. Those employees who have returned now need to refresh their training to be compliant with flight safety rules and procedures. The icing on the cake is that anyone who works past security at every airport, in any position, has to go through a rigorous security clearance that takes months to complete.
“Lead times in the sector are long and unfortunately things cannot change overnight. We all want to believe that given the scenes at airports over the last few weeks the industry will pull its sleeves up and be ready for the full summer season. This is seven weeks from now. Action has to be taken quickly so the situation at airports can ease by mid to late July when most schools break for summer.”