London Southend Airport has contacted airlines offering to accommodate flights canceled by busier airports.
It comes after weeks of disruption in the aviation sector with post-covid Booming demand and many airports and airlines unable to cope.
Speaking to Sky News, Southend Airport boss Glyn Jones said the past few months had been “far from great”, adding: “It must be much better for next year”.
Thousands of flights have been canceled by airlines and airports so far this summer, as the industry struggles to downsize and rehire all staff who have been laid off during the pandemic.
things have been so bad Heatrow imposed a customer cap of 100,000 departing passengers per day and says airlines can no longer sell tickets.
The move has left many travelers anxious about their plans as the school holidays begin.
But given this bustle, the current scene in Southend might come as a surprise to many – the terminal is very quiet.
In fact, the airport only has one or two departing flights per day and passenger numbers are down 95% from pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, the airport was growing by 40% per year and handling more than two million passengers on 40 different routes. But airlines pulled out during the lockdown, consolidating their schedules around bigger airports and many have not returned.
That leaves easyJet, which only runs four routes.
This means that while Heathrow and Gatwick are canceling flights, Southend has large amounts of spare capacity and is desperate for more business – a strong indication of how the industry remains staggered post-pandemic.
“We’ve actually reached out to a lot of people who are going to be affected,” Jones said.
“I think the problem is that it’s just very late for people, so maybe we can play, frankly, a minor role, but a minor role is a useful role if it’s your flight that’s affected.
“We have a break situation this summer. It hasn’t been great, let’s face it, it’s far from great. It must be much better for next year.”
sabotaged by security
But for things to improve, more staff are needed.
The industry as a whole needs tens of thousands more people, but finding them is proving very difficult.
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Thousands of people were laid off when the furlough scheme ended and the sector did not reopen. But with a record number of vacancies across the economy, many have found work elsewhere.
Even for those applying for jobs, security clearances are so stringent that many cannot provide the necessary work history and others who can don’t want to wait to be cleared.
Kully Sandhu runs Aviation Recruitment Network, a recruitment agency employed by several airlines and airports.
On an assessment center day in Luton, 16 people were registered to attend, only eight showed up.
It’s typical, he said. “I have clients who come to me crying and saying ‘I booked 10 people, no one showed up for interviews’ and that’s a reality.”
Fight for candidates
His job has never been harder, as the vacancies he fills have doubled, applications have halved.
“You absolutely have all the airports recruiting,” he says. “Everyone is now fighting for the same candidate.”
He blames the government for not extending the furlough scheme and not giving industry enough notice of the reopening, which has delayed the hiring process.
But, he says, there is also another key problem. “Brexit has been the biggest challenge, especially for major airports.
“If you take Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Heathrow Airport, you’re relying on a predominantly European workforce. We don’t have those people anymore.”
EasyJet boss resigns amid growing anger over flight cancellation
Things like the passenger cap at Heathrow are a clear attempt to try to remove some of the uncertainty and last minute cancellations. But many are highly critical of airlines and airports that don’t plan ahead and start rehiring early enough.
It’s a situation that has been described as a colossal “strategic failure”.
More realistic prices for airline tickets
Experts say the turbulence of this period and the weakness it exposed is likely to cause a complete industry reset, with the low-cost model simply no longer working.
“We have always struggled to have more supply than there is real demand and the airlines are actually creating artificial demand with very low fares,” says John Grant, an expert at the consultancy. aviation analysts OAG.
“We will either see fewer airlines and quite frankly I don’t think that will be the case because there are always new entrants, the barriers to entry are much lower than they have ever been …or we’re going to have to pay a more realistic price for our airfares.”
That may not offer much consolation to passengers hoping to get away for a long-awaited summer vacation. Many can expect better.
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