Various airlines have asked the UK government to relax post-Brexit immigration visa rules and to allow for EU aviation workers to receive special visas – all to help ease the overwhelming disruption forcing the aviation industry into a standstill as demand trumps resources. 

Airport delays 

Chief Executives of various airlines spoke to the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, during a meeting this Wednesday about the matter. It was said that airlines would be able to ease some of their staff shortages and the consequential disruptions by moving crew to the UK from other European bases. 

Any kind of relief would be welcomed wholeheartedly by airlines as the pressure on the aviation sector will only increase over this 4-day weekend as nearly 2 million people are expected to travel. 

This week has seen crippling delays in the form of 3+ hour queues and cancellations caused by there not being more passengers than aircraft available, sparking criticism that airlines have been selling far more flights than they could operate. 

Data and analytics company Cirium, which specialises in working with global leaders in finance, aerospace, travel, etc, has shared that there were 377 flight cancellations from UK airports between 25 May and 31 May. 

EasyJet aircraft
EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights this week at Gatwick Airport to key destinations such as Spain, Poland and Italy. | © easyJet

UK hit hard post-Brexit

As the week continued and the situation became unavoidable, Shapps criticised the sector somewhat, stating that the struggles experienced by the aviation sector in the UK “do not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service.” He continued:

“The companies who have seen the most disruption need to learn from those who ran services smoothly.”

It is undeniable that this crisis has hit the UK much harder than the rest of the globe. But that is likely due to the fact that every country had a slightly different approach to the pandemic and following restrictions. UK-based airlines and airports fired tens of thousands of staff in 2020 in response to the pandemic and were not able to rehire as quickly for various reasons, one being the thorough but slow security background check process. 

Many airlines are waiting for thousands of hired staff to be cleared. 

British airways tailfins
British Airways cancelled 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow, but assert that all passengers were given advance notice. | © Phillip Capper

Visa rules unlikely to be relaxed

This week’s disruption is probable to last for at least another week. According to Cirium, more than 11,000 flights are scheduled to depart from UK airports between Thursday and Sunday. This weekend can be seen as a prime holiday spot as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee coincides with half-term across the majority of schools across the country. Airlines and airports are still unequipped to deal with the high numbers of traffic as this matter is nothing but a quick fix. 

It is more than reasonable to assume that the disruption could continue well into the profitable peak summer season.

And it seems as if the UK government won’t be able to help alleviate the situation as much as hoped. Grant Shapps warned airlines’ Chief Executives that it was unlikely that the government would relax immigration and visa rules just to help them cope with demand. 

Have you been affected by these delays and disruptions this week? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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