Foreign Covid rules ‘to blame for travel chaos at major airports’

Foreign Covid rules are to blame for delays at major airports, the chair of the Transport Select Committee has said.

Huw Merriman said that airport staff are under extreme pressure to process travel documents for passengers flying to destinations which still have pandemic-related restrictions in place.

The Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle said it is unwise to assume that you can simply “flick a switch” and expect the aviation industry to recover its pre-Covid efficiency.

“I’m afraid it was an industry that was decimated. It has bounced back to about 70 per cent of its pre-Covid levels, but it just doesn’t have the staff in place,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“At Heathrow, 80 per cent of their destination marketplace still have Covid conditions, so staff on the ground have to check those as well. All of this adds to a very lumpy picture for aviation and sadly it’s the travelling public that are impacted.”

Heathrow - Carl Court/Getty Images© Provided by The Telegraph Heathrow – Carl Court/Getty Images

He added: “I think there’s been a failure to understand that you can’t just flick a switch and expect the aviation industry to restart. They only had the full go-ahead on March 18. There’s a requirement for them to operate 70 per cent of their slots, otherwise they could lose them.

“So effectively the Government and Parliament have told them to restart at those levels, but it can take three months to get staff recruited and through the vetting process. That’s taking longer than pre-pandemic in some stages.

“As a result, you’ve got the perfect storm where you haven’t got enough staff in a job market where people are already worried about the future of aviation because they’ve lost jobs and it’s been start/stop.”

Mr Merriman’s comments come after days of chaos at airports across the country, with easyJet forced to cancel at least 35 flights on Tuesday, with Gatwick the worst affected airport.

Hungarian carrier Wizz Air also scrapped at least seven flights to UK airports.

British Airways cancelled 124 Heathrow flights, although the airline said affected passengers were given advance notice.

Meanwhile, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators announced that they will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25, in the biggest industrial action in the rail industry in a generation.

The RMT also announced another 24-hour strike on the London Underground on June 21 in a separate row over jobs and pensions.

The strikes threaten widespread travel disruption during a number of major events, including concerts, test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival.


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