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Heathrow urges airlines to invest in ground handlers

London Heathrow has called on airlines to “step up” their investment in ground handling staff to help address disruptions affecting aviation this summer.

The UK hub airport limited capacity to 100,000 passengers a day until September 11 to cope with rising passenger numbers during the summer peak travel season.

Nigel Milton, the airport’s chief of staff and Carbon, insisted Heathrow was “well run” and prepared for the summer peak season despite “clickbait headlines focused on travel chaos”.

He cited a shortage of ground handlers as a major cause of disruption to aviation, with 50 percent of these workers leaving the industry across Europe during the pandemic.

“For months ground handling companies have been trying to hire and train skilled workers, but if their airline customers aren’t willing to pay market rates, they won’t be able to fill the positions,” added Milton.

“Airlines have had no net increase in their ground handling resources at Heathrow since January – and this has become a constraint as demand picks up.”

Milton called on airlines to improve their current operations to “increase investment in their ground handlers”.

“If they do, then we can all start focusing on rebuilding Britain’s world-shattering aviation sector and get back to giving our passengers the service they deserve,” he argued.

Willie Walsh, director general of the airlines association IATA, has repeatedly criticized Heathrow in recent weeks for not better preparing for a surge in passenger numbers this summer and for “underestimating” the scale and speed of the recovery in travel demand.

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