‘You had one job’: Budget airline points the finger at airports amid travel chaos

July 25, 2022, 12:42 PM UTC
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has warned that the outlook for the aviation industry remains "fragile."
Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Airports around the world have found themselves in a chronic state of chaos in recent months, as the aviation industry struggles to cope with a surge in demand for travel following years of being annihilated by the COVID pandemic.

A top executive at European budget airline Ryanair vented his frustration at airports on Monday, seemingly scolding those in charge at airports for failing to keep up with the travel sector’s recovery.

“They had one job to do, and that was to make sure they had sufficient handlers and security staff,” Ryanair CFO Neil Sorahan told BBC Radio 4’s Today show.

“It is incumbent on the airports to get their planning better next year,” he added.

Airport staff unhappy

Recent months have seen passengers facing long lines and delays at understaffed British airports, but a combination of staff shortages and pent-up demand for travel has led to widespread delays, lost luggage and cancellations at airports across the continent.

Earlier this month, London’s Heathrow Airport asked airlines to stop selling summer flights and set a daily limit of 100,000 passenger departures.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s biggest airport pulled the plug on its customer support hotline this month after call handlers reported a sharp increase in verbal abuse from passengers.

On Monday, survey results published by jobs website CV-Library revealed that almost half of U.K. airport staff were thinking about quitting their jobs.

More than 1,700 workers responded to the poll, with the majority of those considering leaving their jobs saying they were thinking of resigning over pay.

Only 5% said they wanted to leave because of the current situation at British airports, while only 4% said angry or unreasonable passengers were making them want to quit.

Air travel remains ‘fragile’

Sorahan’s comments on Monday came as Ryanair posted its first spring profits since the COVID pandemic began, with the number of customers flying with the airline in the three months to June 30 growing 461% from a year earlier.

While the company saw a return to profit for the spring quarter, it conceded that its €170 million ($174 million) post-tax profit came in “well below” the €243 million it made in the same period just before the pandemic.

CEO Michael O’Leary said in the company’s earnings report that Easter bookings and fares had been “badly damaged” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Our experience with Omicron last November, and the Ukraine invasion in February, shows how fragile the air travel market remains,” he warned. “The strength of any recovery will be hugely dependent upon there being no adverse or unexpected developments over the remainder of [the year].”

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