Brexit freedoms! UK to harness powers outside EU as Shapps pledges to fix airport chaos

Grant Shapps on using ‘Brexit freedoms’ to tackle travel chaos

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Mr Shapps has been under pressure to deal with long queues and flight delays at Britain’s airports with Sky News’s Kay Burley demanding answers from the Transport Secretary. Mr Shapps announced a “22-point plan” written up with airport authorities and airlines to deal with issues, and he noted the Government are taking advantage of new freedoms gained from being outside the EU following Brexit. 

Mr Shapps told Sky News: “I have been very concerned about the way that their bounce back or over bounce back in a sense from Covid has caused all those queues and problems at the airport.

“I’ve been working with them, we’ve got a 22-point plan that we put together with the sector which has included changing the law to speed up things like the processing of security clearances, using some Brexit freedoms as it happens, and asked the airports and the airlines to be realistic about the programme that they run the flight programme that they run.

“All in order to ensure that when the schools break up for the summer, across the whole country, and they already have in parts and Scotland, for example, that we see the airports run as smoothly as possible that I should point out this is not a UK only problem.

Heathrow Airport has introduced a cap on passenger numbers this summer as the aviation sector struggles to cope with demand for travel.

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No more than 100,000 daily passengers will be able to depart from July 12 until September 11, the west London airport announced.

Airlines planned to operate flights with a daily capacity averaging 104,000 seats over that period, according to Heathrow.

The airport said it has ordered airlines to “stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers”.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable.”

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Problems include long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality, and last-minute cancellations, Mr Holland-Kaye said.

He said this is due to a combination of poor punctuality of arrivals due to delays at other airports and in European airspace, as well as increased passenger numbers “starting to exceed the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers, and the airport”.

He added: “Our colleagues are going above and beyond to get as many passengers away as possible, but we cannot put them at risk for their own safety and wellbeing.”

The aviation industry is suffering major disruption as a surge in demand for travel coincides with staffing issues across roles such as airline crew, ground handlers, airport security staff, and air traffic controllers.

Philipp Joeinig, chief executive of Menzies Aviation, says requests from the industry for Government help in minimising staff shortages fuelled by Brexit and the pandemic have not resulted in “forthcoming” help, exacerbating the current crisis.

Mr Joeinig said the industry unsuccessfully lobbied the Treasury during the pandemic, with Mr Sunak then serving as chancellor, for targeted aid following the end of the Government’s furlough schemes.

Writing in The Times, he said: “The present travel disruption is not because of a single point of failure, with staffing issues affecting the whole market. Not only was this predictable, but it was also preventable.

“Brexit had a big negative impact, reducing the available pool of employees.

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