“It is ridiculous that the Government is trying to pass the buck to the travel industry”, claims AITO
Chris Rowles, AITO Chairman announces: “We’ve had enough. The Government is playing the blame game, and trying to pass the buck to the wider travel industry.
“But everyone in travel, including AITO specialist tour operators and AITO specialist travel agents, has suffered hugely during the two long years of Covid. This has been caused largely by three key linked factors.
“The current airport issues are, in the main part, firstly due to the Government’s stop/start policy in relation to overseas travel and, secondly, due to its total lack of sector-specific support for the travel industry over the past two years.
“The third key factor is Government’s total lack of understanding of the travel industry, despite our huge efforts to get these key messages through to the five government bodies to which the travel industry reports.”
Other important areas for which Government must take responsibility include, AITO claims:
Airlines being instructed by Government to return to 70% capacity by now, ie summer 2022, from pretty much a standing start. This means that they have to sell the capacity created or risk failing.
The very long security-check process for airport staff. It took far too long for the Government to agree that new recruits could be trained during the security-checking process to save time. This is finally now in place, but airports are so far behind that they can’t easily make up for the lost time.
Skilled overseas workers being denied relevant visas despite a huge shortage of supply in respect of a wide range of travel-related occupations. Travel leaders asked Government to consider this option only last week; the request was turned down by Government.
In addition to the key points above, the travel industry is also faced with the following issues that hinder recovery:
(a) Airport and airline workers suffering from Covid sickness and not being able to work, causing increased flight cancellations, longer security checks and baggage handling problems at the airport.
(b) Travellers being urged by the CAA to use their ATOL-protected deferred holiday vouchers before the end of September or to risk losing their financial protection, causing a huge rush to book, evidently without any consideration by the CAA of the knock-on impact caused at airports already under stress.
(c) The relatively unattractive job market in travel - experienced workers across all roles who were made redundant by the travel and airline industries in the 24-month period of zero financial income have, of course, now mostly found new roles in different sectors, and are unwilling to return to a high-pressure, relatively lowly-paid industry with long and unsocial working hours and often poor working conditions.
(d) Brexit forced large numbers of EU workers in the travel industry to return to Europe, causing massive shortages in the travel workforce.
Says Chris Rowles: “Government, please hold up your hands and acknowledge your major part in the airport chaos that reigns at present.”
“Consumers are, quite rightly, protesting about changes and cancellations to their holiday flights, but the issues need to be clearly explained. Tour operators and travel agents have, unfortunately, no influence whatsoever over airlines (easyJet and British Airways, for example) and their schedules. That said, we are working extremely hard to amend arrangements and to keep our clients informed. We answer our phones and we email our customers (unlike the airlines), and are doing our utmost to help clients in a difficult scenario which is absolutely not of our making.”