‘Slasher’ airlines to blame for travel chaos, says Heathrow Chairman

By Linsey McNeill
Home » ‘Slasher’ airlines to blame for travel chaos, says Heathrow Chairman

Heathrow Chairman Lord Paul Deighton says stingy airlines haven’t been able to recruit enough baggage handlers because they’re not prepared to pay higher wages, causing bags to pile up at the airport in recent weeks.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said airlines have ‘driven down costs for years’ and baggage handling was one of the first to be slashed during the pandemic.

“Across Europe, over 50pc of ground handlers left the industry. Many with driving skills, such as those who take bags to and from the plane, were snapped up as delivery drivers.

“For months ground handling companies tried to recruit and train skilled workers, but if their airline customers won’t pay market rates, then they aren’t able to fill the posts,” wrote Lord Deighton.

“Heathrow is proud to be a London living wage employer and we have had no difficulty attracting talented people to work in security. Airlines have not secured any net increase in ground handling resource at Heathrow since January, making it the constraint as demand grows.”

Lord Deighton said Heathrow had been asking airlines to balance their ground handling resource with demand ‘for months’, but he added: “In the last few weeks, we have seen a shocking increase in planes departing without bags and passengers having flights cancelled after they were already on board.

“That’s why we stepped in and implemented a cap – just like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Gatwick and many other airports. We moved quickly to protect the peak summer getaway.

“Nobody wants to make the difficult decision to tell some passengers they won’t travel, but it is better this happens when they can make other choices than when they are already on the plane.

“As airline ground handlers increase, we will be able to raise the cap. We are grateful our airline customers have recognised the need to take action, and are now working with us to make sure capacity and demand are in balance.”

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