Why is there so much disruption at UK airports right now?

Why is there so much disruption at UK airports right now?
UK: Long Queues At Manchester Airport Due To Staff Shortage Continue

UK airports have plunged into chaos in recent weeks, due to the industry suffering from staff shortages and job cuts over the pandemic.

Analysis by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council published in December 2021 warned that one in eight UK travel and tourism jobs would be unfilled entering this year, with 205,000 vacant roles.

It claimed staff shortages could have an "enormous impact" on the UK's economic recovery from the pandemic.

Here is everything we know about the disruptions:

What disruption has the UK seen?

In recent days, over 1,000 UK flights have been cancelled due to crew members being off sick.

On Wednesday alone, 100 flights were axed, with British Airways responsible for at least 78 flights at Heathrow and easyJet cancelling at least 30 at Gatwick.

Chaotic footage from Manchester airport showed hordes of people queuing to get through security. Some passengers experienced a 30-hour delay.

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Delays in reclaiming baggage prompted people to abandon their belongings and head home.

The scenes have forced airport bosses to discuss the "concerning" situation with union officials and to discuss pay and working conditions.

Last week, a technical glitch with BA left passengers waiting at Heathrow for flights - the airline said the fault was resolved the same day.

Passengers have also reported long queues at Heathrow and Birmingham airports.

What is causing the disruption?

Airports are struggling from staff shortages and a spike in demand. Many families are heading abroad for the Easter holiday, the first since the UK's coronavirus restrictions for international travellers were dropped.

While isolating is no longer a legal requirement, Covid cases continue to rise, prompting people to take time off due to sickness. The guidance also recommends avoiding crowded areas if you have the virus.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "This is a staggering level of flight cancellations caused by a cocktail of not having enough staff in place and Covid-induced staff shortages.

"Airlines are certainly seeing a high level of demand to fly, but are simply unable to cope with that demand due to a lack of resources. It's a nightmare situation for airlines and airports at the moment."

What have people said about the disruption?

A spokesperson for easyJet said: "EasyJet will operate the vast majority of its 1,525 flights today [Tuesday, April 5] with a small proportion cancelled in advance to give customers the ability to rebook on to alternative flights.

"We are sorry for any inconvenience for affected customers."

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, will talk with airport bosses to discuss the "concerning" situation with union officials and also set to discuss pay and conditions.

John O'Neill, North West Regional Industrial Officer for Unite, said later on Tuesday, union officials will be meeting management at Manchester Airport to discuss pay.

He said after mass redundancies due to Covid, some workers have found alternative jobs with similar wages and may not be willing to return to work at the airport doing unsocial hours for similar pay rates.

O'Neill said: "There is a huge problem with recruitment, a massive problem with recruitment.

"This is the test for summer, the Easter break, is the test for summer.

"Summer is going to be far worse than this. It is the time to get everything in place otherwise summer is going to very difficult."

Aviation consultant John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, told the PA news agency last week that British Airways has "staff shortage issues coming out of the pandemic, and I know definitely that's something which is going to be more widespread with airlines because of the number of people who were let go".

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