Heathrow blames ground handling shortages for "unacceptable service levels"

Written by: Samantha Payne |
Image credit: Heathrow Airprot
Very easy for Heathrow to blqme ground handlers, when their baggage systems fail and then they put ...

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Heathrow Airport has blamed shortages in ground handling staff for causing a constraint on capacity as it reports £321m loss after weeks of cancellations and delays.

The number of ground handling employees has dropped sharply over the last two years as airlines cut costs during the pandemic, forcing many people to find jobs elsewhere.

Now airlines and ground handling companies are facing huge challenges in recruiting staff back into the industry.

Heathrow said it has been raising its concerns “over the lack of handler resource for nine months”.

“We estimate that airline ground handlers have no more than 70% of pre-pandemic resource, and there has been no increase in numbers since January,” a spokesman said.

In its half-year results update, the airport said it started to see a ”worrying increase in unacceptable service levels for some passengers”, showing them “that demand had started to exceed the capacity of airline ground handlers”.

Issues include “an increase in delays to get planes on to stand, bags not travelling with passengers or being delivered very late to the baggage hall, low departure punctuality and in some cases, some flights being cancelled after passengers had boarded.”

As a result Heathrow has taken immediate action to protect consumers by applying a cap on departing passenger numbers and aligning its resources.

“Airline ground handler performance has been much more stable since the cap came into effect, and we have seen a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage performance. Heathrow’s cap is 50% higher than Schiphol, which shows how much better the airport and airlines have planned at Heathrow than our competitors. The cap will remain in place until airlines increase their ground handler resource,” added an airport spokesman.

Heathrow reported a £321m adjusted pretax loss for the first half of the year, an improvement compared to last year, which reported a £787m pretax loss.

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Very easy for Heathrow to blqme ground handlers, when their baggage systems fail and then they put bags in remote areas making it hard to foreard on. In addition, security queues are spiralling due to their inability to recruit staff and when GHAs do get staff, it takes weeks to get the required passes.

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