Ministers have given Heathrow’s chief executive an ultimatum calling on him to come up with a plan to tackle staffing problems at the airport.
According to a letter from Transport (DfT) for Aviation, Maritime Transport and Safety and Head, Heathrow’s chief, John Holland-Kaye, has until Friday afternoon to reassure ministers that the airport has enough staff to handle security checks and assist passengers with disabilities.
The airport administrator was also asked to report a “reliable and robust capacity recovery plan over the next six months”.
Rannia Leontaridi, DfT official, and Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, wrote: “Heathrow and the aircraft that use your airport need to be reassured and reassure us that there is a plan in place to ensure a positive passenger experience to let as many people as possible travel without too much disruption and queues, and above all to avoid a large number of short and free days.
He further adds, “The Government and the CAA are concerned that the current resource plans are not delivering this result.”
The ultimatum comes as Emirates rejects Heathrow’s request to suspend summer flights, saying it will continue to operate on a scheduled schedule and accusing the London airport of promoting “airmageddon”. The golfer said the airport’s request, made in an effort to limit travel disruption, was “totally unreasonable and unacceptable”.
In a blistering statement, the airline instead pointed the finger at Heathrow management for “incompetence and inaction” in failing to prepare for the flight’s bounce after the lifting of the coronavirus travel ban.
Heathrow Airport announced on Tuesday that it would cap daily passenger numbers at 100,000 in the summer and told airlines to stop selling tickets for the high season. The move is to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes at airports across the country over Easter and half term due to rising demand for travel during understaffed times.
The airport apologised to those affected on Tuesday and said the passenger flight meant some summer flights could be moved to another day or airport or canceled altogether.
Airlines have already cut thousands of flights from their summer schedule after the UK Civil Aviation Authority offered a temporary “slot amnesty” that allows airlines to avoid losing valuable take-off and landing slots if they don’t use them now. tough. The government said the move would benefit passengers by encouraging carriers to reduce last-minute cancellations.
Heathrow says the cuts are not far off, but Emirates – which operates six return flights a day between Britain’s busiest airports and Dubai and flies superjumbo A380 fleets that are not available at smaller airports – said Heathrow’s “very sorry”. On Wednesday, there is 36 hours to meet the capacity reduction “in a figure that can be seen from the sky”.
The airline said: “Their communication not only dictated specific routes where we must drop off paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.”
Rising demand for summer travel after two years of Covid-19 bans have transformed Europe’s planes and airports, with staff shortages making more pilots, cabin crew, check-in staff and baggage handlers redundant. This means passengers have to wait for last-minute cancellations, long delays, lost luggage or long waits for luggage.
Shortage of staff
Heathrow blamed a shortage of ground staff contracted by airlines to screen passengers, load and unload luggage and prepare planes for onward flights.
However, Emirates says ground management and catering services are owned by the parent airline and are “fully equipped and capable of managing our flights”. Instead, “central service and the airport system” are to blame, it said. The airline has accused Heathrow management of “cavalry” when it comes to passengers and airlines, with signs of a recovery in travel seen for several months.
Emirates said Heathrow had failed to relocate, plan or invest during preparations for the rebuild, including hiring and training 1,000 pilots last year.
“Now, in an ‘airmageddon’ situation due to their incompetence and inaction, they are passing the entire burden of the cost and seizure chaos onto the airlines and passengers,” the statement said.
Emirates called on London Heathrow’s shareholders – most sovereign wealth funds, including Qatar – to “review the decision of the management team”, Holland-Kaye pressed.
Heathrow said it had been asking airlines for months to help come up with a plan to deal with their staffing problems, “but there are no clear plans for the future and the problem is getting worse every day”.
Responding to Emirates’ statement, the airport said: “We have no choice but to take the difficult decision to build a capacity cap designed to provide a better and more reliable journey for passengers and to ensure everyone working at the airport.
“It would be frustrating if every airline prioritized revenue over a safe and reliable passenger journey instead of working together.”
It is not possible to rebook many potentially affected passengers as all flights will be full for the next few weeks, including to other London airports and alternative airlines, Emirates said. Moving some operations to other UK airports in the short term is also unrealistic, he added.