‘We have an idiot as a transport minister who doesn’t know what he’s talking about’: Ex-British Airways boss Willie Walsh lays into Grant Shapps for his handling of half-term holiday chaos
Willie Walsh made the comments during speech at the Paris Air Forum last weekIt comes after a bitter briefing war between transport firms and the GovernmentGovernment have blamed travel firms for disruption and queue chaos at airportsBut Mr Walsh lashed out at the comments, describing transport minister as ‘idiot’Mr Walsh was in charge of BA’s parent company during ‘fire and rehire’ scheme
Willie Walsh, who is now the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), lashed out after holiday flights caused misery for thousands of families jetting off for sunshine getaways.
He was reacting to remarks by Mr Shapps, who said the airline industry had not done enough to prevent the chaos.
The transport minister also accused firms of overselling flights and said the Government had helped the airlines with ?8billion support package during the pandemic.
Mr Walsh was in charge of BA when they controversially announced plans to ‘fire and rehire’ thousands of staff at the height of Covid.
Asked whether airlines should have been better prepared, Mr Walsh said at the Paris Air Forum earlier this month: ‘In the UK, It is not helped that you have an idiot as a transport minister, who doesn’t know what he is talking about.
He was reacting to remarks by Mr Shapps (pictured), who said the airline industry had not done enough to prevent the chaos. The transport minister also accused firms of overselling flights and said the Government had helped the airlines with ?8billion support package during the pandemic
Holidaymakers say they are facing ‘chaos’ once again at Manchester airport (pictured left and right today), with ‘three hour’ queues and hundreds of passengers being funnelled through ‘just one’ security desk. Some passengers say they arrived three hours early for their flights, only to have to be pulled from the queues and fast-tracked through to the gate to avoid missing their flights
Willie Walsh (pictured), who is now the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), lashed out after holiday flights caused misery for thousands of families jetting off for half term sun
According to the figures, companies across Britain sought 1.3million new members of staff in the three months to May, a record high number of vacancies to fill. Pictured: A graphic from ONS data showing the number of active vacancies across all industries (red), compared to those in the Transport and Storage industry (blue)
WH Smith sales soar past pre-pandemic levels with sharp increase at travel stores
WH Smith has seen sales soar thanks to a ‘particularly sharp recovery’ at its travel stores following the revival of international flights and the return of the office commute.
It comes after months of travel chaos have seen thousands of travellers spend much more time at airports than usual, as they arrived extra early to avoid the hours-long queues and faced painfully-long delays and cancellations.
Meanwhile the number of passengers travelling through the likes of Heathrow in May increased by eight-fold compared to last year, when Covid travel restrictions were still in place.
Millions more workers have also begun commuting again as they are increasingly asked to return to the office, providing higher footfall at train stations and motorway services – although the number of people working from home (WFH) remains higher than before Covid.
WH Smith said its total sales were at 107 per cent of pre-pandemic levels over the 15 weeks to June 11, with travel sales – meaning stores in airports and train stations – at 123 per cent of 2019 levels over the same period.
While its travel stores are booming, its high street trading reported a slowdown to 79 per cent of 2019’s levels over the same 15-week period.
The London-listed firm highlighted that this included a negative impact from its Funky Pigeon online greeting cards business which saw orders halted by a cyber attack.
The retailer, which sells everything from books and magazines, to food, drink and stationery, has branches in 29 UK airports and in more than 100 airports internationally.
It also boasts 120 stores at train stations across the UK and Europe and more than 125 franchises operating at services on Britain’s motorways.
The retail firm told shareholders on Wednesday that it now expects annual trading to be at the top end of analyst expectations.
Its sales boom has been buoyed by expansion in the travel sector, having purchased US-based airport technology retailer InMotion in 2018.
‘If you look at the UK, it stopped financial support in furlough scheme at the end of September last year.
‘The belief was everything was fine and we are going in the right direction. Passenger numbers in the fourth quarter of last year when there was no government support for airlines – zero – passenger numbers were down 55% versus 2019.
‘Now the idea that an airline would start ramping up when their traffic levels are at minus 55%, they are still burning through cash and you have a Government that is changing their mind by the day.
‘In other words if you look at what happened in November, the UK Government took all of the countries off their famous red list and put 13 of them back on in late November with Omicron.
‘They were removing restrictions, introducing restrictions. The idea that airlines would suddenly say – oh we are out of this, let’s start recruiting again when you had no idea what the Government was going to do is a nonsense.
‘You have politicians saying airlines should have ramped up sooner – no they shouldn’t. Airlines would have gone out of business had they done what these idiot politicians were saying they should have done.
‘Those of us who understand what is going on need to call out these politicians and remind them of what they did, the damage that they did and point out the fools that they are.’
Grant Shapps said last week: ‘We’ve been clear that industry leaders need to tackle the issues we saw at Easter head-on.
‘Although some steps have been taken, we are still not seeing the progress we need to.’
Mr Walsh was the chief executive of BA’s owner IAG at the time when the airline controversially announced plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs from its 42,000 staff as part of a controversial ‘fire and rehire scheme’.
The airline announcement in summer 2020 at the height of Covid and amid heavy restrictions on world travel – becoming one of the first major firms to tout such a scheme.
It told its senior crew that, if rehired, their pay would be 80 per cent of the then basic pay rate.
The move was slammed by unions, including Unite, who pledged not to engage in formal talks with BA until it removed its threat to ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce.
Amid a backlash, the ‘fire and rehire’ plan was dropped by BA in September 2020, but the airline did push on with plans for 10,000 job cuts instead.
Walsh officially retired from IAG in September 2020, and was succeeded by Luis Gallego.
It comes as industry experts today warned that airline staff laid off during the pandemic have taken up better paying jobs with less responsibility in other industries and are now reluctant to come back.
The industry is currently in the grips of a staffing crisis – sparking chaotic scenes of long queues and abandoned luggage at airports and resulting in hundreds of flights being cancelled.
Pictures and video at Manchester Airport (pictured today) show a huge line of people snaking around the airport terminal as the wait to go through airport security at the under-pressure airport
Others say hundreds of passengers were being funnelled through just two security desks. Another passenger described the situation as a ‘fiasco’. It comes after weeks of disruption at the airport, and others such as Birmingham and Bristol, and also on occasion Heathrow and Gatwick. Pictured left and right: Queues at Manchester Airport today
Amid the continuing chaos, including long queues at Manchester Airport today, MPs were warned how travel firms were struggling to bring back staff following mass redundancies last year.
One employment expert, Danny Brooks, founder and CEO of Virtual Human Resources, said airline firms had been forced to axe thousands of workers in the gap between the end of the Government’s furlough scheme and the end of all Covid travel restrictions.
Comparing the situation to ‘like an alien spaceship removing staff from the supply chain’, he said many former airline staff had now settled in new jobs including as heat-engineers or in Amazon warehouses.
His comments came as figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) today reveal how travel firms were now facing stiff competition in the labour markets, with job vacancies reaching a record high.
According to the figures, companies across Britain sought 1.3million new members of staff in the three months to May, a record high number of vacancies to fill.
Meanwhile figures show how employment levels have fallen in the air transport industry. ONS data shows there were some 81,000 people employed in March 2020, compared to just 70,000 in March this year – a fall of 14 per cent. At the lowest point last year just 66,000 people worked in air travel.
‘Ryanair don’t listen to staff, they probably care about you more because you give them money’: Moment steward lays into bosses over plane tannoy from Spain to Manchester
A disgruntled Ryanair steward has stunned passengers by laying into bosses during an extraordinary mid-flight announcement.
Video shows the exasperated staff member lashing out at the budget airline over the tannoy while on a flight from Spain to Manchester.
The footage, filmed by a passenger, shows the staff member apologetically informing holidaymakers how they can make a complaint against the company.
A disgruntled Ryanair steward has stunned passengers by laying into his bosses during a candid mid-flight announcement. Video shows the exasperated staff member lashing out at the budget airline over the tannoy while on a flight from Spain to Manchester
But his announcement takes a twist when he claims bosses ‘don’t listen to their staff’.
In the video, the steward can be heard saying: ‘I do apologise. If you want to file a complaint please do so – go to Ryanair.com.
‘They don’t listen to their staff, they probably care about you more because you give them money. Instead we’re costing them money.
‘So give that a go, see how that goes. After four years I literally – I haven’t got high expectations for them you know.’
A passenger on the flight said the worker seemed ‘stressed’ They said: ‘I had a feeling [the steward] was going to blow, and sure enough a few minutes later he made the announcement. I felt really sorry for him to be honest, he seemed really stressed out.’
It was reported earlier this week that cabin crew working for Ryanair in Spain have voted to hold six days of strikes at the end of June and early July.
The Spanish-based staff in the USO and SITCPLA unions will walk out for two three-day strikes from 24 June to 26 June and 30 June to 2 July. Today a Ryanair spokesperson refused to comment on the video.