QUEUES spill out into parking lots, passengers cry over canceled flights and suitcases pile up.
Travelers across the country faced chaos, but at Manchester Airport things were so bad that a pilot came out of his cockpit to load bags onto a severely delayed plane.
Yet we can reveal that despite chaos at the main travel hub, which is operated by Manchester Airport Group (MAG), chief executive Charlie Cornish received a 25% pay and benefits increase last year .
Latest annual reports show the 62-year-old, who lives in a £2million home in upscale Prestbury, Cheshire, and recently said he ‘couldn’t apologize enough for the misery of travel inflicted on his clients, was awarded a £2.5m package last year – a £500,000 raise on his 2020 contract.
MAG, which also owns London Stansted and East Midlands airports, has made around 900 layoffs during the pandemic across the group, while another 1,500 jobs are believed to have been cut by external contractors.
A ten percent pay cut was also imposed on all remaining staff. The band claimed nearly £80million in furlough money between March 2020 and September 2021, when the scheme ended.
Last night’s travel and consumer champion Martyn James told The Sun on Sunday: ‘The only thing that has taken off lately with this business seems to be the CEO benefits.
“To the thousands of people lining up around the block, it’s an insult.”
Aviation expert Terry Tozer, a former BA pilot, added: ‘Airports and airlines have seized on Covid to do what they’ve wanted to do for ages. Staff have been reduced and wages have been reduced.
“Then once demand picked up after Covid, management took the bookings and the money.
“Now managers and government blame each other while the public suffers, travel workers and business leaders get rich.”
Now it has emerged that an even bigger crisis could threaten summer holidays, as there are FOUR times more jobs available in parts of the airport than before the pandemic.
This is an indication of the lack of essential workers at the airport.
Tens of thousands of passengers had to endure daily disruptions for weeks.
The chaos has had a ripple effect on other terminals in the UK and around the world.
Heartbroken families have seen the midterm vacation ruined.
Airline bosses blame a post-pandemic surge in bookings.
Recruitment giant Indeed said the number of baggage handling jobs currently on offer has quadrupled since 2019.
We found 500 jobs at Manchester Airport advertised this week, ranging from baggage handlers, security staff and cabin crew to duty managers, cleaners and bar and hotel staff.
Positions are advertised as requiring “immediate starts”. Those who sign up are told they can earn £250 by referring a friend.
The only thing that has taken off lately with this company seems to be the benefits of the general manager
Martyn James, travel and consumer champion
Two weeks ago, airport bosses staged a major job fair in Manchester in an attempt to attract workers.
But the number of vacancies still available this week seems to indicate that the push for additional staff has yet to bear fruit.
Totaljobs had as many as 215 vacancies based at Manchester Airport, while Reed had 63, Jobsite.co.uk listed 96 and there were 63 on Jobsora.com, including a ‘head of improvement”.
Last night Ray Ellis, 54, who worked at the airport but quit, claimed he had quit due to ‘chaotic’ operations at his former place of employment.
Ray, who was a porter, explained: “Experienced staff left during Covid. New staff haven’t been around long enough to deal with the issues.
Over the past week, images have continued to emerge of baggage handlers struggling to cope with the amount of unclaimed baggage piling up at airports.
Suitcases have been seen falling off overloaded conveyor belts.
A baggage handling company said it was hampered in its attempt to recruit new employees by delays in criminal record checks carried out by the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, said: “Demand for baggage handlers is now above 2019 levels and wages have jumped nearly 9% in a bid to attract new workers.
“The race is on to hire people and train and get them in place before the peak summer season.”
Experienced staff left during Covid. New staff haven’t been around long enough to deal with the issues.
Former Porter Ray Ellis
Aviation services company Swissport told The Sun on Sunday: “We are working hard to address the resource issue, with more than 2,800 new hires so far this year.
However, there have been some challenges around the security clearance of new recruits.
The DBS told us that it “is not responsible for delays in the recruitment of airport staff”.
If things don’t improve at Manchester Airport, it could come at a cost to chief executive Charlie Cornish, who has yet to receive the £500,000 bonus he was awarded.
A source said: “If things don’t get better with airports, he may never have that money in his hands as he’s tied to meeting certain targets over the next four years.
“The way things are going right now, it seems questionable.”
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been the most damaging episode in our airport’s 83-year history.
“We have maximized the use of the furlough scheme, but unfortunately have had to make a small number of redundancies.
“Many other colleagues chose to leave to seek employment elsewhere in sectors that had been less hard hit.
“Demand for international travel has picked up almost as strongly this spring as it fell two years ago, and as a result we have faced unprecedented pressures on our operations.
“We apologize to passengers whose experience at our airport over the past two months has not lived up to the standard we would usually provide.
“We launched our biggest recruitment drive ever in January and saw 400 new colleagues join us this year, with another 500 expected to start working at our company pending government background checks.”
SORT STAFF SHORTAGES
By Lisa Minot, Editor-in-Chief of Sun Travel
THE shocking scenes at Manchester and other airports across the country must NOT be repeated this summer.
Airlines and airports have been quick to take money from travelers in a desperate attempt to replenish coffers devastated by two years of onerous closures and travel restrictions.
But it is outrageous that they reinstated flight schedules that they must have known had no chance of operating successfully with such a shortage of staff.
Travelers deserve to get what they pay for – to not have to endure the chaotic scenes they witnessed again halfway through this summer.
It also does the airlines a disservice by paying thousands of dollars in compensation to passengers whose flights were canceled at the last minute.
And the gruesome scenes at airports serve as a personal lens – putting off those who may now think twice before flying out.
Recruiting the right staff at the right pay – and quickly – is essential.