London Heathrow Airport boss says airlines are the ones to blame for travel chaos because they slashed baggage-handling jobs and underpay workers

Suitcases are seen uncollected at Heathrow's Terminal Three bagage reclaim, west of London on July 8, 2022. - British Airways on Wednesday axed another 10,300 short-haul flights up to the end of October, with the aviation sector battling staff shortages and booming demand as the pandemic recedes.

The aviation industry is dealing with a messy summer travel season as demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels — but staffing has not.Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

  • London Heathrow Airport’s chairman, Lord Paul Deighton, blamed airlines for the travel chaos.

  • Airlines cut ground-handling staff during the pandemic and aren’t able to replace them now, he said.

  • That’s because airlines aren’t willing to pay market rates for the wages of baggage handlers, he said.

The chairman of London Heathrow Airport has hit back at airlines blaming the aviation hub for the travel chaos.

Airlines have not managed to recruit enough ground handlers because they are underpaying them, Lord Paul Deighton wrote in the Telegraph on Tuesday. Such workers handle a wide range of jobs in airports from check-in to loading and unloading bags.

“It is a highly competitive, labor intensive, low margin business, characterized by short-term contracts. Airlines have driven down costs over the years, and this was one of the first costs they slashed during the pandemic,” Deighton wrote.

As a result, over half of ground handlers across Europe have left the industry and many with driving skills have been snapped up as delivery drivers, he added. Ground-handling companies are trying to fill the positions, “but if their airline customers won’t pay market rates, then they aren’t able to fill the posts,” Deighton wrote.

Heathrow has been asking airlines to meet demand with adequate ground-handling staff, but “in the last few weeks, we have seen a shocking increase in planes departing without bags and passengers having flights canceled after they were already on board,” he added.

Deighton’s defense of Heathrow Airport came on the back of criticism from airlines as the airport has capped how many passengers can fly out from the facility in a day in order to contain the

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