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Shapps ‘risking travel chaos by ruling out emergency visa for aviation workers’

Grant Shapps (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Grant Shapps (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Transport Secretary is risking travel chaos by rejecting calls for an emergency visa for aviation workers, industry bosses have claimed.

Sources speaking to the BBC said Grant Shapps has ruled out filling gaps in the sector by amending the Government’s Shortage Occupation List.

It comes after travellers hoping to get away for the half-term break faced hour-long queues and missed flights, with experts blaming understaffing at airports.

Queues at Gatwick
Queues at Gatwick (Stephen Jones/PA)

More than 30,000 employees have been laid off by UK airlines over the past two years.

Half-term is the industry’s first major test since Covid travel restrictions were lifted in March, with the head of one airport warning it “takes time” to rebuild staff numbers.

Although queues appear to have died down, there are fears that the industry will not be able to cope with the resurgence in demand in July and August.

The Department for Transport and the aviation industry have set up a group to discuss mitigating travel issues ahead of the summer holidays.

Privately, bosses have questioned why some – including chefs and ballet dancers – are entitled to a skilled worker visa, while aviation employees are not.

Ian Costigan, managing director of Manchester Airport, said: “Since the turn of the year, we have worked to recruit the people we need to support the recovery of our operation.

“This takes time due to the lengthy background checks and training involved, but we have been really encouraged by the level of interest.”

The airport has recruited 340 people this year, with a further 500 undergoing security checks.

Recent travel disruption eased on Thursday, with queues at Heathrow said to be a quarter of the length of a couple of days ago.

A spokesman said: “While there have been some queues at times, our colleagues have worked incredibly hard to keep the terminals flowing.

“With most holidaymakers now already safely away, the terminals are quieter than at the start of the week.”

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