Senior aviation sources have demanded that the British government treat airline workers like seasonal fruit pickers flown in from Eastern European countries for a few months each summer in order to plug a staffing shortfall with cheap foreign labour.
“Aviation is a seasonal industry and temporary visas would work very well to meet peak demand,” one anonymous source told the right-wing Telegraph newspaper.
“It’s inconceivable that the Government’s policy allows EU staff to work as ballet dancers or fruit pickers in the UK but not in our airports,” a second source briefed the paper.
On Saturday, The Telegraph reported that the ruling Conservative party was preparing to relax post-Brexit immigration controls to help ease the staffing crisis that is gripping Europe’s aviation industry.
But within hours of the story being published, sources aligned with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had dismissed the suggestion, saying the government would resist calls to relax immigration controls for the benefit of the travel industry.
Industry leaders who met Shapps last week to discuss the staffing crisis had demanded temporary visas be issued to EU workers to address staff shortages that have been compounded by delays in government-mandated security referencing.
Similar problems have hit airports across Europe with aviation employment agencies in Germany demanding that the German government let 2,000 Turkish workers into the country to fill check-in and ground workers vacancies.
Shapps has become embroiled in a war of words with the travel industry after he ordered airline and travel companies to stop selling tickets for flights that they couldn’t operate due to staff shortages.
The travel sector has defended itself against allegations that it should have been better prepared for a spike in travel demand, saying businesses would have gone bankrupt if they had hired employees in the hope that travel restrictions were going to be lifted.
“The Transport Secretary made clear, we cannot always reach for the lever marked ‘more immigration’,” a spokesperson for the Department for Transport said on Saturday.
“We are absolutely focused on seeing an end to the disruption at airports and will continue to work with industry, and listen to their suggestions, as we consider how best to solve the issues,” the statement continued.=
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.