Well, that’s Easter pretty much out of the way! Have you got out of the airport yet? Of course, it may be that you and your family had no plans to fly away during the holiday, the first time for two years this could be done (to most European destinations, anyway) without any of the coronavirus complications. But there’s a good chance if you did that it was not a hassle-free experience. Everything gets blamed on Covid, of course, but the main reason for the problems affecting so many passengers is chronic staff shortages principally caused by airlines and airports laying off thousands of staff during the pandemic and being way too slow to start rehiring again, even though the general industry expectation had been that the demand for travel would quickly become enormous once restrictions had been first eased and then lifted.
It’s an ill wind and so forth, and not for the first time in history it has emerged that some top-brass people had a rather good pandemic even as thousands of their staff became ex-employees. The annual report of the Manchester Airports Group, which also owns Stansted and East Midlands airports, showed that management pay had risen from £9.4 million to £12.2 million in the year ending March 31, 2021 – that being the first full year of the pandemic, when air travel was pretty much moribund. Two weeks ago Karen Smart (see photo on the home page), the managing director of Manchester Airport, stepped down from her post, waving goodbye to her £2.5 million salary.
Mind you, airline officials are not all taking the criticism laying down. (Lying, perhaps; who knows?) Their finger-pointing about the bottle-necks that have developed at airport queues is in the direction of the government and the fact that new staff have not yet been trained to implement security checks as speedily as should be the case. To no surprise, the government denies it is responsible for the intermittent albeit recurring chaos. But there is no doubt that circumstances have changed because of the pandemic. For example, Heathrow only had 1,807 departures in May 2020. This month, that figure is expected to top 17,000.
A sobering statistic indeed, but it’s not as if everything will be as straightforward as it was once the travel industry has worked its way through these issues. When you travel to an EU country now your passport must be less than ten years old and be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave your destination; mobile phone operators are now allowed to reintroduce roaming charges when you’re overseas; and whereas prior to Brexit our right to freedom of movement was unlimited within the EU that has now been replaced with a limit of 90 days in the Schengen area in any one 180-day period. There’s more stuff along those lines but I haven’t got the energy. Happy landings!