Heathrow has laid into some of the biggest airlines at the airport as it attempts to shift the blame for a flood of ‘clickbait’ stories about travel chaos at the airport.
In an internal memo, the West London airport’s chief of staff, Nigel Milton said the cause of much of the recent disruption was the fault of cost-cutting by airlines who refuse to pay market rates for in-demand workers.
Ground handling workers, especially, were driven out of the industry during the pandemic and many have refused to come back to arduous airline jobs that offered little pay on short-term temporary contracts.
In fact, many with driving skills were snapped up by delivery companies and now earn far more than when working for some of the biggest airlines in the world.
“For months ground handling companies have been trying to recruit and train skilled workers, but if their airline customers aren’t willing to pay market rates, then they aren’t able to fill the posts,” warned Milton.
The airport claims that despite a massive recruitment drive, ground handling companies aren’t able to attract enough new staff and with staff turnover, there has been no net increase in ground handling workers at the airport since January.
“Airlines need to plot a new flight plan,” Milton continued. “While there is a lot of pressure to cut costs, you can’t stop investing in the basics.”
The memo is believed to have been written in response to a stinging attack launched on the airport by Emirates after it was asked to cut passenger capacity by Heathrow bosses. Emirates accused Heathrow of “incompetence” and insisted it had enough ground handling workers to deal with demand.
The two sides reached a compromise agreement in which Emirates will pull flights from sale but won’t be forced to offload passengers who have already booked tickets.
Emirates had demanded Heathrow’s shareholders take action to replace the airport’s senior management team but Milton dismissed that idea and said the airport’s shareholders made the right decision when they “stuck by us and gave us more support when we needed it”.
“That’s the approach we need airlines to now adopt – starting with stepping up investment in their ground handlers. If they do that, we can then all start focussing on rebuilding Britain’s world-beating aviation sector,” Milton 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.