‘Lazy’ Brits who ‘live off benefits and sit on their arses’ have been blamed for the staff shortages currently crippling the UK’s travel industry, it has emerged – just hours after passengers were accused of pretending to be disabled to avoid the horrific queues plaguing Britain’s travel hubs.
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.
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.
It is then that Mr Heapy is said to have fumed about Brits who have failed to turn up to job interviews or take the application process seriously.
Jet2 told the Sun that Mr Heapy had expressed his frustrations with the employment woes, but that ‘other rumours being circulated are categorically not the views of him or our company’.
Jet2 boss Steve Heapy (pictured) 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.
It came after Bosses at Birmingham airport said there was a 20 per cent rise in people asking for disabled assistance and that it has had to buy more wheelchairs and take on extra staff to push them.
An insider at a meeting of industry leaders on Wednesday, also with Mr Shapps, said: ‘If people are pretending it’s potentially stopping genuinely disabled people from getting a place, and that’s pretty grim.’
The source added: ‘You can’t just say to people ‘no, you’re lying’.’
Another industry boss said: ‘There should be a special place reserved in hell for people who pretend to be disabled.’
Disabled passengers can skip queues at security and, for a small fee, use fast track lanes and get help through immigration, customs and baggage reclaim.
UK airports have faced criticism due to reported 10-hour delays faced by passengers. It comes as the industry finds itself in the middle of a recruitment crisis due to a spike in demand since covid restrictions were lifted (Pictured – Birmingham airport)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said pressure in the jobs market ‘does not excuse poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service’ (Pictured – Bristol airport)
Hundreds of flights have been delayed or cancelled in recent weeks and passengers have faced waits of several hours in arrivals and departures.
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.
Yesterday 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.
Passengers were pictured sitting on the floor and a baggage carousel at Birmingham airport
Passengers have reported long delays at baggage drop-off and pick-up as airlines in particular struggle to find the staff they need to keep airports moving (Pictured – Manchester airport)
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.
A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘During a meeting with Government and industry, 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.’
They added: ‘To clarify, the other rumours being circulated are categorically not the views of Mr Heapy or our proudly UK-based company.’
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.