Jet2 responds to claims boss blames ‘lazy Brits who live off benefits’ for airline chaos

Birmingham Airport: Queues form as half-term chaos continues

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Jet2 boss Steve Heapy is said to have made the inflammatory comments during crunch talks with transport secretary Grant Shapps this week, after the minister rejected calls – including from the likes of BA and easyJet – to grant airlines more powers to hire visa-free workers from Europe. However, the airline has clarified that these reports being circulated are “categorically not the views of Mr Heapy or our proudly UK-based company”.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, A Jet2.com and Jet2holidays spokesperson said: “As a UK airline and tour operator that has, unlike others, not made any cancellations thanks to our proactive recruitment strategy, we are extremely proud of our hardworking British colleagues who continue to deliver award-winning customer service for UK customers every day.

“During a meeting with Government and industry on Friday, Mr Heapy expressed his frustrations with the current employment market – as Brexit has taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people out of the job market and that is having an impact on many industries, including ours. 

“To clarify, the other reports being circulated are categorically not the views of Mr Heapy or our proudly UK-based company.”

The industry has struggled to replace staff lost in the pandemic.

Airlines said they wanted to hire unemployed cabin crew from the likes of Spain in a bid to plug the employment gap, but their pleas were flatly rejected. 

This comes after Bosses at Birmingham airport said there was a 20 percent rise in people asking for disabled assistance and that it has had to buy more wheelchairs and take on extra staff to push them.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected the call for European workers at Thursday’s talks.

Hundreds of flights have been delayed or cancelled in recent weeks and passengers have faced waits of several hours in arrivals and departures.

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The industry wants post-Brexit rules relaxed so that they can hire foreign staff, rather than relying on British applicants who have increasingly missed interviews or failed aptitude tests.

Mr Shapps said the Home Office was unlikely to make an exception for the aviation industry, which he blamed for the problems. 

Pressure in the jobs market “does not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service”, he added.

On Tuesday easyJet axed another 36 flights, from Gatwick to places such as Nice, Marseille and Montpellier. That takes its tally of cancelled flights over half-term to more than 200. 

TUI has cancelled six a day from Manchester until the end of the month, and British Airways has removed 16,000 flights until autumn.

Travel chiefs are braced for more chaos this weekend, with 10,794 flights – carrying 1.9million people – due to take off. 

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, called for a regulator with ‘real teeth’ so that airlines face proper punishments.

Mr Boland said: “The shameful scenes at UK airports this half-term are the result of an industry in which some airlines feel they can get away with ignoring consumer rights and acting with near impunity.

“It is clear that passenger rights need to be strengthened … and the Civil Aviation Authority must be given the power to issue direct fines so it can hold airlines to account when they flout the law.”

Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, told ITV News that the Army should be drafted in to man security desks and thus get rid of the queues.

Spanish air traffic controllers could heap more misery on holidaymakers by going on strike in a row over staffing. 

A decision is expected at the end of this month by USCA, a trade union representing 90 per cent of staff.

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