Louise Haigh column: Sheffield MP demands urgent government action over airport chaos

Since the travel restrictions lifted post-Covid and people have finally been trying to take their long-awaited holidays, people across the country have faced chaos, writes Louise Haigh MP.

By Julia Armstrong
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 2:57 pm

They have been left queuing for hours on end, flights have been cancelled and families have missed out on trips over the school holidays. And the government are completely missing in action!

The government were repeatedly warned both by Labour and the aviation industry that losing highly-skilled staff during the pandemic would lead to this kind of chaos.

The airports and airlines are now struggling to recruit people to security roles, ground control and cabin crew staff partly because the industry was so badly hit during Covid.

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Transport Minister Grant Shapps MP: Sheffield Heeley MP and Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh says she has repeatedly called for him to act to tackle the chaos of lengthy delays at airports

Obviously, they were one of the first to close due to the Covid pandemic and one of the last to open up again.

Ministers were warned two years ago that if skilled, trained workers were lost within the industry, then it would be very difficult to get back up to speed. They failed to listen to these clear warnings and 60,000 aviation jobs were lost as a result.

Unions also warned, at the start of the pandemic that the aviation industry has to be nurtured, that you can’t just shed staff and then scale up again at the drop of a hat.

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Sheffield Heeley MP and Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh wants urgent government action over the airports chaos that has seen thousands of travellers queuing for hours and even having their foreign trips cancelled

Training staff takes time and is so important especially for airside jobs like baggage handling, air traffic and crew – and alongside training, you need experienced people in these key positions.

I have repeatedly called on the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to take steps to tackle the chaos of lengthy delays in the days, weeks and months ahead.

In the short term, he must sort the Cabinet Office delays in security checks for airport staff to allow employees to be safely recruited ahead of the summer holidays.

In the medium term they can bring together industry, airports, unions and the government to tackle the chronic low-pay hampering recruitment and address the skills shortage. And they must develop a sector recovery strategy to prevent precisely the problems we’re seeing at the moment.

I’ve heard some horror stories from people who had planned to travel this half-term. They had their bags packed and the night before travelling their flights were cancelled – leaving them without that sunshine break that they’d been planning.

The government should show some responsibility, do their job and take concrete steps to tackle the chaos growing on their watch.

If the government continue to ignore these warnings and what is happening around them, then passengers will continue to pay the price because they simply can't get the basics right.

*Louise Haigh is the Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley and Shadow Transport Secretary