The boss of one of Britain’s biggest airports says staffing levels may not fully recover until the autumn and has predicted a busy summer.
Passengers have recently experienced lengthy delays at airports and are being warned to prepare for a busy week with families flying out at half term and the anniversary holiday.
Birmingham Airport chief executive Nick Barton says the queues were caused by a delay in recruiting, training and security clearance for enough staff to handle the surge in demand for international travel since restrictions were lifted in March was.
“In simple terms, the airport was operating at about a third of what it used to be and has been for two years, so we’ve lost half our staff,” Mr Barton told Sky News.
“Demand and appetite for aviation turned on in February and March and came back almost immediately and we then had to race and catch up.
“For this simple reason, the queues and levels of service that we are used to simply could not be maintained.”
Mr Barton says they were only told “about two or three days in advance” that all travel restrictions were lifted on March 18.
During the pandemic, 43% of Birmingham Airport employees have been made redundant.
They began recruiting attempts again in November but have struggled due to the emergence of the Omicron variant and fears of another ban.
“In December and January we couldn’t get people to join us because we were pretty much closed at the time,” says Mr Barton.
“We were working at less than 30% and couldn’t really offer a career. So who would join us?
“We were able to get a few people on board, but not the number we needed. That only changed in February.”
He says they’re still “about 15% from where we need to be” as it takes about 10 to 12 weeks to clear and train new employees.
“We expect the summer to be very busy. We’ll be back where we want to be mostly by mid-August.
“In terms of going back to normal, probably September, October, but that shouldn’t put anyone off traveling via Birmingham Airport in the meantime,” he says.
To fill the gaps, staff have been working overtime, including Mr Barton himself.
“I was here on the morning shift, got here around 3am and did five hours of security to help passengers load trays,” he says.
Advice for customers
For Stuart Haseley-Nejrup, Head of Customer Experience at the airport, the most important thing is that passengers are happy.
His advice to customers is to arrive at the airline’s recommended time and try to avoid additional unnecessary delays at security.
“Prepare your bags,” he says. “Make sure you don’t have any liquids or electronics in it.
“Think of all the preparations before you come through.”
147,000 passengers are booked for flights to and from Birmingham over the four-day anniversary weekend.
That’s 144 times more than the 2020 bank holiday weekend and 10 times more than last year.
“Be patient with the staff”
Passenger numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels, just 11% lower than on the May 2019 bank holiday.
“I’ve been working throughout the pandemic and there were times when you were walking through this terminal when you literally heard your feet go through,” says Haseley-Nejrup.
“So to have jobs for people again and to see people coming back to your airport – that’s fantastic,” he says.
He accepts it was a challenge but asks customers to deal with it.
“So we know our ultimate goal, we’re getting there and we’re going to get where we want to be.
“Be patient with our colleagues. Our colleagues work so hard to give you great experiences and we do our best.”
Birmingham Airport braced for half-term passenger surge as boss warns staffing issues could linger into autumn | UK News
Source link Birmingham Airport braced for half-term passenger surge as boss warns staffing issues could linger into autumn | UK News