Security checks for new staff eased to relieve UK airport travel chaos

British transport chief reveals plans to fast-track fresh recruits

People queuing to check-in at Heathrow Terminal 2. PA

New aviation recruits in Britain will be allowed to begin training before passing security checks to ease flight cancellations, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

Passengers at airports around the country have endured chaotic travel disruption in the past few weeks, with longs queues and grounded flights commonplace.

The industry has blamed the disruption on a combination of more passengers as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, a wave of employees falling ill with the disease and a lengthy delay in hiring people because of vetting procedures.

British Airways has blamed “technical glitches” for some of its problems but the delays have been affecting airports and airlines across the country.

Mr Shapps said he will “look for ways to try to assist” the sector but will not “compromise in any way, shape or form with aviation security and safety”.

“I have looked at the rules and found an area where we can assist with the bureaucracy, particularly with regard to new people coming into the industry and their need to be security checked,” he told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

“We can begin the training without exposing them to the parts of the training which are security-related, without having the security check complete, as long as it's complete before they start the security-related stuff.

“This is an example of how we'll try to work with the sector but in the end they will have to resolve these problems by getting people in the right places.”

BA is cutting about 100 short-haul flights at Heathrow Airport every day due to staff shortages.

Passengers have reported being forced to wait for several hours to pass through security and passport checks at airports such as Birmingham, Manchester and Heathrow.

Mr Shapps said he called BA chief executive Sean Doyle into his office on Tuesday to discuss recent disruption.

The Cabinet minister told the transport select committee that Mr Doyle said the problems were “growing pains in lots of different directions”.

Mr Shapps said the airline has found it “quite difficult” to recruit enough ground staff such as baggage handlers in a “very, very tight employment market”.

The problems were exacerbated as more people booked flights when Covid restrictions were lifted but before airlines could hire people to deal with the new levels of passengers and flights.

At Easter, about 20,000 passengers were forced to cancel or alter their holiday plans after many flights were cancelled.

British Airways also cancelled dozens of flights in February from Heathrow, when it struggled to fix “technical issues” that affected its booking and check-in systems.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 2:47 PM
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