A 22-point government action plan to support the aviation industry has been unveiled as it urged the sector to avoid a repeat of Easter and half-term disruption this summer.
It sets out the measures government is taking to support the aviation industry, including to help recruit and train staff, ensure the delivery of a realistic summer schedule, minimise disruption, and support passengers when delays and cancellations are unavoidable.
The plan coincides with schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland breaking up for summer, firing the starting gun on the busy summer holiday period – more than 100 days after all remaining covid restrictions on international travel from the UK were lifted.
Ministers insisted is now for the sector itself to undertake the “appropriate steps” to make sure there’s no repeat of the chaos seen at Easter and half term.
They have been clear that reaching for the lever marked ‘more immigration’ is not an obvious solution to the problem.
Disruption is happening across the EU and in the US due to staff shortages, and the government said it was committed to building a “robust and dependable” domestic aviation industry.
An aviation skills retention platform was introduced last year to help develop and hold onto UK workers.
The new plan includes:
- A weekly Summer Resilience Group with airline, airport and ground handler operational directors to help them work through their pinch-points in the aviation system as they emerge and work collaboratively on solutions.
- A joint Home Office and Department for Transport Ministerial Border Group to identify and prepare for high levels of demand at the UK border.
- Working with major airlines and airports to get weekly updates and assurances to government that they can run their schedule of summer flights.
- Working with international partners, neighbouring countries and Eurocontrol to ensure that disruption is minimised through co-ordinated planning and co-operation across airspace boundaries.
- Undertaking a review of the ground handling market to seek out opportunities to improve quality and consistency of service.
- Strengthening consumer protection for air passengers such as additional enforcement powers for the Civil Aviation Authority.
- A new Aviation Passenger Charter will be launched as a one-stop guide for passengers informing them of their rights, responsibilities and what they can reasonably expect of the aviation industry when flying.
- Changing the law so the industry has more flexibility to train staff and allow them to deploy staff quickly and flexibly while maintaining security standards.
- Launching a Generation Aviation campaign, working with industry to promote awareness of aviation careers and increase the number of people applying for jobs in the sector.
- Working with the CAA to launch a £700,000 skills funding competition this autumn to support outreach across the sector and raise awareness of aviation careers to young people.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions. While it’s never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we’ve been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.
“The 22 measures we’ve published today set out what we’re doing to support the industry.
“It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half term.
“With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there’s simply no excuse for widespread disruption.”
— Department for Transport (@transportgovuk) June 30, 2022
Ministers have made clear to airlines that they must run realistic timetables that can be fulfilled and must make passengers aware of any changes to their flights well in advance in order to avoid last-minute cancellations.
New regulations have been introduced as part of the 22-point strategy that aims to give airlines the tools to ensure that schedules are manageable and reduce flight disruption over the summer peak.
Ministers and officials have been meeting with the industry weekly to find out more about their plans for the summer and work through any issues in the system, ensuring that operators and airports can run schedules in line with the staff they have available
Aviation minister Robert Courts said: “I’ve been meeting regularly with the industry ahead of the summer holidays, and I’m enormously grateful for the constructive way we’ve been able to discuss what went wrong at Easter and half term.
“The action we’ve taken to support airlines and airports isn’t just about minimising disruption this summer, but helping the sector recruit the staff it needs for the long term. I look forward to continuing to support them in this effort where we can.”
Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Richard Moriarty added: “We share government’s ambitions for resolving the travel issues that we’ve seen in previous months. These actions will help the sector to be more resilient in dealing with strong consumer demand.
“We will work alongside government and the wider industry to help deliver a better experience for passengers. I’m looking forward to the Civil Aviation Authority being part of that collective effort.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said: “As the government says in its 22-point plan, the majority of UK flights continue to be on time and without disruption, but it is good to see the government and the aviation industry working together to minimise the potential for any problems this summer.
“Abta member travel agents and tour operators are helping customers get away on their well-deserved holidays and will be supporting them in the unlikely event that their travel plans change.”
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, commented: “Another day of chaos at the UK’s biggest airport suggests the government’s working groups and written warnings to airlines and airports are not yet having the desired effect – and many passengers will understandably be concerned that this plan may not be enough to prevent a summer of travel disruption.
“Passengers have been treated appallingly during recent months. With the holiday plans of millions of people at stake, the government and aviation regulator must show they can get a grip on this situation and ensure airports and airlines meet their legal obligations to the travelling public in the busy weeks ahead.
“The shameful scenes at UK airports show why passengers need their rights to be strengthened and enforced by a strong regulator and compensation regime. The government should give the CAA powers to fine airlines directly when they flout the law, and drop plans to cut passenger compensation for delayed and cancelled domestic flights.”