LONDON: The UK government today announced a 22-point plan to minimise disruption at airports during the busy summer period and address ongoing issues across the aviation sector.
Following a stream of negative press in recent weeks over flight cancellations and staffing issues, the action plan outlines how the government will support the sector through the peak season – including steps to ensure the delivery of a realistic summer schedule and assistance to recruit and train staff.
The plan includes last week’s announcement of a one-off ‘amnesty’ on airport slot rules, where airlines are given the chance to temporarily hand back valuable take-off and landing slots at UK airports if they are not able to operate them.
To manage schedules, a new weekly Strategic Risk Group chaired by ministers and attended by airline, airport and ground handler CEOs has been established. Alongside coordinated planning with neighbouring countries and EUROCONTROL, the UK government is also undertaking a review of the ground handling market.
Other actions set out in the plan include measures taken to reduce the time it takes to get new staff on board, including changing the law to allow greater flexibility over background checks, and the launch of a Generation Aviation campaign to promote awareness of aviation careers. This will be backed by a £700,000 skills funding competition in autumn, together with UK Civil Aviation Authority, to support outreach across the sector.
Following the release of the plan, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps, said the onus is now on airports and airlines “to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare” to avoid the chaos of the past few months.
Aviation minister, Robert Courts, added the plan isn’t just about minimising disruption during summer, but “helping the sector recruit the staff it needs for the long term”.
Civil Aviation Authority chief executive, Richard Moriarty, said the government’s actions will help the sector become more resilient in dealing with consumer demand.
“We will work alongside government and the wider industry to help deliver a better experience for passengers,” Moriarty said.
Business Travel Association CEO, Clive Wratten, applauded the government’s plan, but said the focus on summer leisure travel was ‘disappointing’.
“There needs to be a longer-term strategy to overcome the current disruptions facing both the business and leisure travellers. It is imperative that people travelling for work can have confidence in their arrangements, in order to boost our international trading status,” he said.
In the coming weeks the UK government also plans to launch a new aviation passenger charter. Developed in partnership with industry and consumer groups, the charter is expected to provide a ‘one-stop guide’ for consumers informing them of their rights and what they can reasonably expect of airports and airlines when flying.