Passengers Forced to Wait Outside UK Airport for Hours as Staff Shortage Persists

Passengers Forced to Wait Outside UK Airport for Hours as Staff Shortage Persists
Thousands of passengers were forced to wait in long queues for several hours outside Birmingham Airport, England, on May 9, 2022. (Twitter user @BobBlack1964/PA)
Alexander Zhang

Thousands of passengers have been forced to wait for hours outside Birmingham Airport as the aviation sector across Europe continues to suffer from staff shortages.

Frustrated passengers took to social media to slam the “absolute chaos,” with one person saying it took her “two hours to get through check-in and security,” and others threatening legal action against the airport if they miss their flight owing to a “lack of management.”

In a statement issued on May 9, Birmingham Airport (BHX) said that it took the decision to run security queues outside the terminal to “avoid them getting tangled with check-in lines,” as half of the 15,000 passengers flying out of the airport on the day were booked to depart in the busy dawn peak.

The airport authorities thanked passengers for their patience, and said the queues were “long but managed and moving.”

It added: “Of the 7,500 customers booked to fly out of BHX in today’s dawn peak, 99.7 percent successfully caught their flights. Anyone who missed was rebooked.”

The airport said 43 percent of its employees were made redundant during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic due to travel restrictions, which were lifted in mid-February with no prior warning.

It added that it began a recruitment drive in November 2021 and new security officers are expected to be on duty soon after completing training.

This has not been an isolated incident. Long queues have also been reported at airports across the UK in recent weeks, including at Heathrow, Manchester, and Stansted.

COVID-19 travel restrictions forced airlines and the wider travel industry worldwide to take drastic measures to stay afloat, including mass redundancies.

Despite the recent easing of the travel curbs, staff shortages have persisted. As a result, European airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights in the lead-up to Easter, and UK airlines such as British Airways and easyJet are continuing to cancel flights every day owing to staffing issues.

Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced new rules permitting new aviation recruits to begin training before passing security checks to reduce the time it takes for them to start work.

In its latest move to tackle staff shortages, easyJet said on May 8 that it plans to remove seats on its flights so it can fly with fewer crew members.

The Civil Aviation Authority bases its requirements on the number of crew members needed per flight on the number of passengers flying.

By removing the back row of seats on its A319 planes, the budget airline will be able to fly with three crew members instead of four.

PA Media contributed to this report.