The British government has identified ten areas that the aviation industry should focus on in order to get airport ground operations back to full capacity and prevent another summer of travel disruption.

This marks the conclusion of its review of the ground-handling market.

Aircraft at London Heathrow surrounded by ground handling equipment
Aircraft at London Heathrow surrounded by ground handling equipment

In the report, the government said staffing shortages were a major factor for the disruptions that took place in summer 2021. Ground handlers had difficulty recruiting and onboarding sufficient employees in time for the main travel season after the covid restrictions were removed. Working conditions in the sector are more challenging than in competing sectors such as logistics and retail.

Aviation Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said:

The misery passengers faced last year when their flights were severely delayed or cancelled at the last minute was simply unacceptable.

We’ve made it clear that improvements can and must be made, so the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are working closely with the industry to build a resilient ground handler market for years to come.

Government proposals to help the aviation sector improve its resilience are:

  • More exploration into how the performance of ground handlers is measured and monitored
  • Improved engagement between ground handlers and the government via the new Aviation Services UK trade association
  • Ongoing support from the government and industry’s Generation Aviation programme for recruitment, retention, upskilling and outreach
  • Creation of a number of working groups involving airports, airlines and ground handlers to address things such as airport ID processes and performance standards

Ground handlers perform tasks such as baggage handling, check in, catering and refuelling.

As a result of staff shortages at airports, including decreases in ground-handler performance, the rest of airport operations were affected, resulting in delays and last-minute cancellations.

The report noted that the aviation industry operates in the private sector. However, it also said passengers should feel confident that the government was doing what it could to help before the upcoming summer season.

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