Heathrow warned for nine months about ground-handler staff shortage, claims CEO

The boss of Britain’s biggest airport, London Heathrow, says he warned ground handling firms that they needed to recruit and train more staff.

John Holland-Kaye said: “Airline ground handling shortage is now the constraint on Heathrow’s capacity.

“The number of people employed in ground handling fell sharply over the last two years, as airlines cut costs during the pandemic.

“We have been raising our concerns over lack of handler resource for nine months.

“We estimate that airline ground handlers have no more than 70 per cent of pre-pandemic resource, and there has been no increase in numbers since January.”

Heathrow has imposed an unprecedented cap on departing passengers, allowing no more than 100,000 per day.

Airlines have been ordered to stop selling tickets for flights up to 11 September, with some cancelling flights and others leaving seats empty.

Mr Holland-Kaye said the measures are working.

“The summer getaway has started well at Heathrow, thanks to early planning and keeping demand in line with airline ground-handler capacity,” he said.

“Airlines need to recruit and train more ground handlers; airports need catch up on under investment during the Covid years – at Heathrow, that means replacing the T2 baggage system and new security lanes.”

Last month thousands of passengers’ bags were piled up outside Terminal 2 at the airport.

Mr Holland-Kaye said: “In the second half of June, as departing passenger numbers regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we started to see a worrying increase in unacceptable service levels for some passengers; an increase in delays to get planes on to stand, bags not travelling with passengers or being delivered very late to the baggage hall, low departure punctuality and some flights being cancelled after passengers had boarded.

“This showed us that demand had started to exceed the capacity of airline ground handlers and we took swift action to protect consumers by applying a cap on departing passenger numbers, better aligned with their resources.

“Airline ground-handler performance has been much more stable since the cap came into effect, and we have seen a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage performance.”

The airport continues to be loss-making. In the first six months of 2022, Heathrow lost £321m and handled 26.1 million passengers.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.