Some staff members could work longer hours if they wanted as a way to help with the current airport chaos, a business minister has said.
Airline passengers have been affected by disruptions for several months, with the situation made worse by increased demand caused by the mid-term school break and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend.
The aviation industry is experiencing staffing shortages after letting go of thousands of people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Business Minister Paul Scully told Sky News there are 1.3 million job openings across the country in various sectors, but there are also “people who have recalibrated what they want to do when they were on furlough”.
He also said he wanted to make it possible for “people who can work longer, who want to work longer, to do so.”
His comments come as London’s Gatwick airport is reducing the number of daily flights during its busy summer period to help tackle staffing issues.
The airport plans to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared to 900 daily flights reported during the same period in previous years.
It said the decision was made after a review of its operations and that it is “temporarily moderating its rate of growth” for two months to help passengers “experience a better and more reliable standard of service.”
Scully told Sky News: “We want to make sure that those people who don’t necessarily work full time, through Universal Credit, we can get them back to work to be more productive, if that suits them, and obviously match them with the sectors where these vacancies exist”.
Asked if this meant people working longer hours, he said: “I’m not talking about forcing people to do anything, but we just want to make sure they’re properly matched so that the people who can work longer, who want work longer, you can do it.”
Gatwick says the reduction allows airlines to manage more predictable schedules and help ground handling companies during school holidays, adding that the vast majority of flights scheduled this summer will operate as normal.
Their review of the airport found that a number of Gatwick-based companies continue to operate with a severe lack of staff resources during the summer break period.
The airport has warned that if the issue is not addressed, passengers could experience queues, delays and cancellations.
It comes after a busy week of Jubilee holidays, in which more than 150 flights across the UK were canceled on the eve of the Jubilee.
Downing Street welcomed Gatwick to reduce flights “so they can realistically deliver over the summer”.
A spokesperson for No 10 said: “We want everyone to be able to travel freely and easily, so we continue to encourage the industry to increase their hiring so that they can offer enough flights for families waiting for a well-deserved holiday after the pandemic.”
Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said the venue had “prepared well” for the restart of international travel by successfully reopening the South Terminal.
It also has 400 new recruits to help quickly process passengers through security this summer.
He said: “We are also working closely with our airlines to avoid disruption to passengers this summer, and while more newly hired staff will start work in the coming weeks, we know it’s going to be a busy summer.
“However, it is clear that during the Jubilee week, several companies operating at the airport had particular problems due to staff shortages. By taking decisive action now, we aim to help ground handlers, and also our airlines, better match their flight schedules to available resources.
“As has already been the case, the vast majority of flights during the summer will operate as normal, and the measures taken today mean that our passengers can look forward to a more reliable and higher level of service, while also improving conditions for travel. staff working at the airport. airport.”
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, believes it will take 12-18 months before the industry can get capacity back to pre-pandemic levels.
Mr Holland-Kaye noted that skilled jobs have been lost and it takes time to recruit and train people, while staffing issues around the world are also having an impact on UK airports.
He told Sky News that Heathrow passengers had faced only minor delays, adding: “For two years, most politicians and the public called for borders to be closed and that had a devastating effect.”
He added: “It’s very easy to slam the industry down, cause huge job losses, but it’s much harder to scale it back up.”
Holland-Kaye believes there will be enough workers to cope with the summer break, as “Heathrow’s biggest team of people are security officers and we will have as many people in security this summer as before the pandemic.”
Ground-handling companies, which handle services such as baggage screening and aircraft cleaning, have suffered huge job losses.
Holland-Kaye told Sky News that this has been Heathrow’s key approach to serving passengers, as “that’s where the problems have been at other airports”.
It is understood that airports such as Manchester and Stansted have no plans to limit capacity.