The Transport Select Committee has published a new report examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK aviation industry, calling government actions on travel restrictions “inconsistent” and “confusing”.
The report covers a wide range of areas, from the effectiveness of restrictions to consumer rights and recent airport delays.
The Committee said that the way in which government introduced international travel restrictions during the pandemic was “inconsistent, confusing industry and passengers”, and the report also singles out the so-called traffic light system – introduced in the summer of 2021 – as being “opaque, ambiguous and inconsistent”.
The report highlights that restrictions changed “more than 15 times between 2020 and 2022”, and concludes that “government restrictions on international travel throughout the pandemic were disproportionate to the risks to public health”.
The Committee also delivered its verdict on recent delays at UK airports including Manchester, Birmingham, Gatwick and Heathrow, stating that “It appears unfair for the government to blame the aviation industry for a lack of readiness, when the government failed to provide the notice and certainty requested by the industry”.
“Recruiting and training staff for the aviation industry is an extensive, labour-intensive process”, said the Committee, citing procedures including background and criminal record checks, and the verification of IDs and applicants’ rights to work in the UK.
Recruitment of security staff also involves a “convoluted system” of counter-terrorism checks, the report said, adding that “multiple checks apparently leads a significant proportion of applicants to take other jobs before the process is complete”.
MAG’s CEO Charlie Cornish recently apologised for queues and congestion at Manchester airport in recent weeks, and warned that disruption would continue in the months to come due to ongoing staff shortages.
The report urged the government to publish its aviation recovery plan no later than June 1, 2022, and concluded that “The Government must build international travel into its future pandemic resilience planning, developing a transparent and predictable system that can be used to facilitate safe international travel during potential future health crises”.
The full Transport Select Committee report, entitled UK aviation: reform for take-off, can be read here.