- A Heathrow worker said the summer travel chaos has made them ashamed to work at the airport.
- “I see hours of queues, crying little kids . . . I am genuinely sorry,” the worker told the FT.
- The unnamed employee was one of several Heathrow workers invited to speak to the FT by their union.
An engineer employed at London Heathrow, one of Europe’s busiest flight hubs, said that the summer travel chaos has made them ashamed to work at the airport.
“When I started working here, on an apprenticeship, there were 1,500 applicants and 20 people got the job. It was really something to be proud of,” the unnamed engineer told the Financial Times.
“Now, I see hours of queues, crying little kids … I am genuinely sorry for anyone who goes through that.
“I am ashamed to work here now.”
The engineer, who was not named to protect their identity, was one of several Heathrow employees invited to speak to the paper by the Unite Union, which represents workers at the airport.
Like many airports, Heathrow, which is the UK’s biggest, has been struggling with labor shortages in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lack of staff has left many airports unable to cope with surging travel demand as the world opens back up, resulting in thousands of flight delays, long-queues, and problems handling baggage.
Heathrow is among a number of airports to have introduced caps on the number of passengers it handles daily — at 100,000 a day until September 11.
British Airways, the UK’s flagship carrier, temporarily suspended the sale of short haul tickets after Heathrow asked airlines to trim summer schedules to meet the cap. Emirates, also agreed to cap ticket sales, after initially labeling the request as “unacceptable”.
The challenge for aviation bosses has been that many of those laid off during the pandemic found work elsewhere, and airport are finding new workers unwilling to accept the pay levels and sometimes hectic work culture they would have previously.
“It’s a shift environment, it’s an anti-social hours environment. It’s also an environment where you’re dealing with the traveling public — it’s stressful,” Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union which represents air traffic controllers, licensed technical engineers, and air traffic systems specialists in the UK, told Insider.
He was speaking generally about employment in the sector, rather than specifically about Heathrow.
Heathrow said in a statement this week that it hired an additional 1,300 people in anticipation of its busy summer period. The majority of the new joiners work in security, where staff capacity has reached summer 2019 levels.
There are currently 70,000 people working at Heathrow, per the FT. Only around 10% of those are employed directly by the hub. The remainder are employed by a network of 400 companies responsible tasks like catering, cleaning and baggage handling, per the FT.
Do you work at an airport or for an airline? Contact this journalist in confidence on [email protected]