The Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has savaged airline bosses for being “underprepared” and have been accused taking passengers money despite knowing they do not have enough staff for “oversold” trips.
On Wednesday British Airways cancelled 124 short haul flights from Heathrow and easyJet axed 31 flights at Gatwick Airport.
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The Labour Party and trade unions are blaming the government for failing to provide enough support, but Raab hit back saying “the government has provided £8bn of support.”
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned the industry for many months that “this will come and that you need to make sure that you’ve got your recruitment in place.”
Raab told Sky News Kay Burley, “It’s good news that more holidaymakers have got the confidence post-Covid pandemic to say, ‘OK, do you know what, we’re going to book these flights’.
“There’s obviously been a surge in demand.
“Throughout the pandemic the government has provided £8bn of support. There’s been some tweaks to the regulation to make it easier for the airline industry to hire.
“And I think also there’s clearly been a lack of preparation for that surge back in demand of holidaymakers.
“And Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been talking to the industry for months now, saying that this will come and that you need to make sure that you’ve got your recruitment in place.
“So I know that there’s a bit of finger pointing going on at the moment, but that’s the support and that’s the advice.
“I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.”
Raab then told Burley that he does not know if aviation chiefs are looking at tax records which would help them to recruit staff more quickly.
Raab added, “I don’t know the details of that. But I do know that we’ve made some changes on the regulatory front because we know that there’s a demand for recruitment and we want to help the airline industry deal with that.”
On Tuesday evening Shapps said, “It’s been very distressing to see passengers facing yet more disruption at airports – having well-earned holidays cancelled and plans left in disarray.
“We’ve been clear that industry leaders need to tackle the issues we saw at Easter head-on. Although some steps have been taken, we are still not seeing the progress we need to.”
He added, “We will be meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers again to find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays.
“I also want to be reassured on their plans for the upcoming summer holidays. We need to make sure there is no repeat of the scenes witnessed over the last few days.
“Despite government warnings, operators seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver.
“This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer.”