Britain’s busiest travel hub has blamed TikTok users for the ongoing airport chaos and claimed passengers are pretending to be disabled to avoid horrific queues during the summer getaway mayhem.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said ‘demand has significantly increased’ for travellers who require wheelchair support amid ongoing travel chaos that has left much of the UK’s aviation sector paralysed.
He said users on TikTok are ‘recommending’ the ‘travel hack’ so they can skip queues at security and use fast-track lanes and get help through immigration, customs and baggage reclaim.
Disabled passengers also have the option to be transported to their gate from departures via an electric buggy.
One user ‘faked hurting his leg to get through security quicker’ on a plane home from Ibiza, while another posted a ‘step-by-step’ guide on social media showing how to make the ‘hack’ convincing.
It comes as bosses at Birmingham airport said there was a 20 per cent rise in people asking for assistance and it has had to buy more wheelchairs and take on extra staff to push them.
Speaking on LBC this morning, Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘We do have as many people now working in our passengers requiring support team as we had before the pandemic. We’ve seen demand has gone up significantly.
‘For passengers requiring wheelchair support, we have more demand than we had before the pandemic. Why is that happening? Some of this is because people are using the wheelchair support to try and get FastTrack through the airport, and we need to protect that for the people who most need help.
‘If you go on TikTok that is one of the travel hacks people are recommending – please don’t do that we need to protect the service for the people who need it most. The second thing is half of all the people who ask for the service only ask once they’re on the plane. If you really need the service, you’ll be better letting us know well in advance so we can make sure there are enough people there to meet your needs.’
Meanwhile, Heathrow reported a pre-tax loss of £321million in the first half of the year despite maintaining its daily limit on flights until after the October half term.
Heathrow’s CEO claims passengers are pretending to be DISABLED to get ‘fast tracked’ and beat the queues during summer getaway mayhem
Social media users have been posting their ‘travel hacks’ on TikTok amid lengthy queues at airports across the country
One user ‘faked hurting his leg to get through security quicker’ on a plane home from Ibiza, while another posted a ‘step-by-step’ guide on social media showing how to make the ‘hack’ convincing
Pictured: One user ‘pretended to be disabled’ so he could get ‘private boarding with the boys’
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye (pictured) said ‘demand has significantly increased’ for travellers who require wheelchair support amid ongoing travel chaos that was seen this morning
HEATHROW: Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said ‘demand has significantly increased’ for travellers who require wheelchair support amid ongoing travel chaos that was seen this morning
HEATHROW: This morning lengthy queues were seen at Heathrow as Britain’s biggest summer getaway gets underway
HEATHROW: Passengers queue to check-in at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport as families embark on getaways at the start of the summer holidays for many schools in England and Wales
HEATHROW: A packed Terminal 3 was pictured this morning as passengers queue to check in their luggage
HEATHROW: Passengers were pictured in lengthy queues at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 on Tuesday morning
Overall, revenues jumped for the airport as people travelled abroad for leisure and business – but ultimately costs have significantly risen.
The airport said its first-half adjusted loss before tax reduced by £466million to £321 million as a result of higher passenger numbers, and said it was still struggling with a lack of ground handlers.
Yesterday, travel chiefs blasted Heathrow airport for failing to prepare ‘appropriately’ for Britain’s busiest summer period in a decade.
Finance chief of Ryanair, Neil Sorahan, 50, accused airports and ‘various governments’ for being guilty of ‘not staffing up appropriately’ despite having ‘had the schedules months in advance’.
He said: ‘You have to hold ANSPs [air navigation service providers] and various governments to account in relation to not staffing up appropriately for that. Equally the airports themselves, they had one job to do to and that was to make sure they have sufficient handlers and security staff. They had the schedules months in advance.
Mr Sorahan told BBC’s Today programme on Monday: ‘We managed to staff up for 73 additional aircraft well in advance and it’s incumbent on the airports to get their planning better next year.’
HEATHROW: Revenues jumped for the airport as people travelled abroad for leisure and business – but ultimately costs have significantly risen
HEATHROW: The airport said its first-half adjusted loss before tax reduced by £466million to £321 million as a result of higher passenger numbers, and said it was still struggling with a lack of ground handlers
HEATHROW: The travel hub’s CEO said the airport was ‘running smoothly’ and that is ‘what passengers ultimately want’
HEATHROW: Passengers queue to check-in at terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, London yesterday afternoon
However Mr Holland-Kaye hit back at the Ryanair chief this morning and said their accusation was ‘bizarre’ and was like ‘accusing an airport of not having pilots’ because it is actually the ‘airlines’ issue.
He said: ‘It’s bizarre that they should accuse airports for not hiring enough ground handlers – they’re provided by airlines themselves. It’s like accusing us of not having enough pilots.
‘Passengers don’t care who is to blame, what they want is a good service and that’s why we have taken the decline to make sure we can keep supply and demand in balance. It wasn’t an easy choice to make.’
Heathrow’s CEO said the airport was ‘running smoothly’ and that is ‘what passengers ultimately want’ .
He added: ‘The summer has got off to a really good start and I want to thank all of my colleagues, airlines, and handlers for the fantastic work they’re doing to get millions of people away on their holidays.
‘We had a good Easter, good Jubilee bank holiday when a lot of airports had difficulties. We’ve taken action to make sure that doesn’t happen here. I’m in Terminal 5 as we speak, and it is running smoothly and that is what passengers want – they want confidence they will get on holiday this summer and that is what we can offer them.
HEATHROW: A letter to airlines seen by the Telegraph , Mark Powell, Heathrow’s director of operational planning, said the travel hub had already introduced ‘contingency’ measures to avoid ‘dangerous’ overcrowding in its terminals
HEATHROW: Britain’s busiest travel hub has experienced lengthy queues, flight cancellations and delays since the start of the year. Pictured: Passengers inside Heathrow on Sunday
HEATHROW: An interior view of Heathrow Airport as the holidaymakers face with an international travel chaos across Europe due to chronic staff shortages on Sunday
HEATHROW: An interior view of Heathrow Airport as the holidaymakers face with an international travel chaos across Europe
HEATHROW: Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘Passengers don’t care who is to blame, what they want is a good service’
HEATHROW: The airport travel hub even threatened to sue airlines which fail to adequately reduce capacity as part of their legal duty to maintain ‘safe and resilient’ travel for passengers
Why is Heathrow imposing a daily passenger cap?
Airlines were able to take advantage of a Government scheme which meant they could cancel summer flights without losing their future rights to the valuable take-off and landing slots.
But even with this measure, Heathrow believes airlines still planned to operate flights carrying 4,000 more daily passengers than could be processed in an acceptable manner.
Heathrow said: ‘On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.
‘We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.
‘But this is the right thing to do to provide a better, more reliable journey and to keep everyone working at the airport safe.’
Heathrow insisted the capacity cap is ‘in line with limits implemented at other airports’.
It added that airlines have ‘discretion as to how they implement this in their individual schedules’.
The west London airport is understood to have told carriers that limits on both inbound and outbound flights will be in effect until at least October 29, owing to staff shortages and absences.
The travel hub even threatened to sue airlines which fail to adequately reduce capacity as part of their legal duty to maintain ‘safe and resilient’ travel for passengers.
Speaking on BBC’s Today Programme this morning, Mr Holland-Kaye added: ‘What we started to see towards the end of June was things going in the wrong direction. We started to see planes being late coming off the stand, late to get bags on and off planes and in some cases, planes leaving without any bags and even cancellations at the last minutes. That trend was getting worse as punctuality was deteriorating and all of this is because there is not enough ground handling capacity employed by the airlines to make sure they can service the demand.
‘That’s why we had to put a cap in place – and that has worked. We’ve seen a material improvement in performance since it came into place. Punctuality has improved, baggage performance has improved and that show the difficult decisions we took two weeks ago are having the impact so passengers can have the confidence to travel from Heathrow this summer.’
It comes as a letter to airlines seen by the Telegraph, Mark Powell, Heathrow’s director of operational planning, said the travel hub had already introduced ‘contingency’ measures to avoid ‘dangerous’ overcrowding in its terminals.
One passenger today said they missed their flight at Heathrow while waiting in queues for check in and security – despite arriving four hours ahead of their departure time.
Passengers at Gatwick have also reported problems this morning, with one holidaymaker claiming their flight was delayed by more than 24 hours, ‘ruining their holiday.’
In Edinburgh, one fuming traveller branded the situation a ‘shambles’ as they tweeted a picture of a packed-out baggage reclaim area, writing: ‘This is the capital’s airport… no ground staff when we arrived, queues everywhere, convoluted walkway… you need to get your act together!’
And things could soon get worse as airline workers join Britain’s summer of strikes, including refuelling staff, who are set to walk out for three days starting next week.
The walk out will come at the start of school summer holidays and will affect airlines Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Delta and KLM.
Spanish workers for EasyJet and Ryanair are also threatening industrial action, potentially wreaking even more havoc on Brits’ holiday plans.
HEATHROW: A busy Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport as people face delays in checking in for their holidays on Monday
HEATHROW: Many holidaymakers arrive at the airport at 5am to make sure they catch their flights on time
HEATHROW: Lengthy queues were pictures on Monday morning as Britons embark on their summer getaways
HEATHROW: Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport packed with queuing passengers on Monday as Britons face delays in checking in for their holiday
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says UK workers won’t plug post-Covid staff shortages blamed for airport chaos
British people do not want to be baggage handlers, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said amid staff shortages and planned strikes at Heathrow Airport.
The low budget airline has been ‘completely unaffected’ by airport chaos this summer which has seen others British airlines cancel thousands of flights due in part to staff shortages.
In contrast, Mr O’Leary said Ryanair was prepared for the return of pre-Covid levels of travel because it could see the ‘recovery coming’ and got its staff back to work early.
He also claimed unlike his competitors, his Irish company can take advantage of the European Labour market and not be faced with British workers who do not want to ‘pick fruit or work in hospitality, security and baggage handling at airports’.
He added: ‘I’m not re-campaigning on Brexit, but the UK is going to have to find a way to open up the Labour market between the UK and Europe, to get people in here to do the jobs which frankly British people don’t want to do.
‘They don’t want to pick fruit, they don’t want to do agricultural labour, they don’t want to do hospitality or security or baggage handling at airports.’
Heathrow was already under fire this week after it took the drastic decision to cap the number of daily departing passengers to 100,000 until at least September 11.
Under the new plans, the number of daily flights leaving and arriving to Heathrow will be capped at 1,100 until August 31.
The figure will then climb to 1,150 between September 1 and 30, before reaching 1,200 between October 1 and 29.
In the pre-pandemic era, Heathrow was handling 1,350 flights per day.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: ‘These further limits on flight numbers will lead many to question why Heathrow is unable to get a grip on its staffing crisis before October at the earliest.
‘Consumers will be concerned about booking half-term trips if they know that Heathrow is continuing to limit passenger numbers towards the end of the year.’
The airport defended limiting its schedules ‘to ensure a continued safe operation and to mitigate risk of uncontrolled demand increases leading to potentially dangerous levels of congestion or crowding’.
It added: ‘During the last few weeks, Heathrow has had to deploy contingencies to avoid safety events and overcrowding in the terminals including access control/call forward required to ensure the safe management of passengers queueing in landside areas.’
The measures were blamed on ‘continued higher absence levels and reliance upon overtime across Team Heathrow’ which meant ‘there is volatility in resourcing levels, impacting resilience, safety, passenger experience and performance’.
The Telegraph reported that airlines have been issued legal letters, warning them they could face ‘restricted usage or no further usage of the airport’ if they fail to cancel flights.
An airport source told the paper: ‘There are legal routes we can use. As part of the licence to operate at Heathrow, airlines need to run a safe and resilient schedule.’