With the chairman of Heathrow Airport (Lord Paul Deighton) launching an attack on ‘slasher airlines’ this week, blaming them for thelack of baggage handlers, Dr Pavlos Arvanitis, Senior Lecturer in Aviation Management at the University of Bedfordshire says the public need to know that the chaos at airports is a very complicated problem and that pinning the blame on any one party is unfair:
“Pushing all the blame on ‘slasher airlines’ is wrong. Airports and airlines are both partly responsible for this mess but it is a complicated situation. There are a lot of moving parts, so to speak, when it comes to travel and not all airports and airlines are suffering to the same extent; Heathrow and Manchester are the airports most impacted and British Airways and EasyJet are the airlines with the most problems.
“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. So airports and airlines only have so much control: they depend on many other public and private entities for the system to run smoothly.
“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.”