Long airport queues across the UK highlight a staff shortage issue, which could prolong the recovery of the UK’s airline and airport sectors.

UK airport companies have been struggling to fill vital positions that ensure travelers have satisfactory experiences when passing through their terminals. When looking at Manchester Airports Group, which also owns East Midlands and London Stansted Airport, its hiring data suggests that it has been struggling to fill positions in recent months. It is clear to see that the airport group acknowledged that there would be a surge in passenger numbers in April due to the Easter Holidays, and the number of active jobs it made available on career pages in February surged to 110. However, only 36 positions were closed in this period, which marked an ominous sign of things to come when international trips started to surge as expected in April.

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the UK means that many airport employees have taken sick leave, which has exacerbated the staff shortage issue. However, staff shortages could remain a problem for several months as airports scramble to match employment levels with demand. When travel came to a standstill during the pandemic, many airport employees left their positions to work in other industries.

It is now up to airport companies to improve their recruitment strategies and make working in an airport an attractive proposition. Stories of unruly passengers, often long commute times, and job uncertainty, as seen with COVID-19, could be off-putting for many currently seeking work.

Peak season is fast approaching

The peak season for holidays in the UK is fast approaching. According to GlobalData, in August, total domestic and outbound visits from the UK are projected to be more than double the total number of visits in April. If staff shortages are not addressed by the peak of the summer season, the impact could be calamitous for the UK’s airport and airline sectors, and wider tourism industry.

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A lack of employees in key roles, such as those involving security, are key contributors to the long queues causing flights to be missed and experiences to turn sour. Lengthy vetting procedures and training processes are involved for these positions, which means this issue will not vanish overnight.

The coming months appear to be challenging for UK airports, and its airlines. A lack of staff in key positions could create an array of knock-on impacts, including missed flights, cancellations, and negative traveler sentiment, all of which could prolong recovery.