Ryanair boss hits out at airports: 'They had one job' – BBC

By Michael Race
Business reporter, BBC News

A Ryanair boss has criticised airports for not recruiting enough staff to cater for the rebound in travellers, saying they had "had one job to do to".
Neil Sorahan, chief financial officer, said "various governments" and airports needed to be held to account for "not staffing up appropriately".
His comments come as staff shortages at airports have led to major disruption and cancellations in recent months.
Airports said they had been recruiting security staff since late last year.
A spokesperson for the Airport Operators Association (AOA), which represents most UK airports ranging from Heathrow to Edinburgh, said: "The vast majority of passengers across the UK are now getting away on their holidays with no or minimal disruption."
The spokesperson added that it was "essential" the industry worked together to fill the remaining vacancies, including for airline ground handling staff.
Mr Sorahan, who said Ryanair was having a "phenomenal" summer as the airline posted profits of €170m (£145m) for the three months to the end of June, told the BBC's Today programme the "biggest issue" the company had faced was "air traffic control disruptions all across Europe".
"You have to hold ANSPs [air navigation service providers] and various governments to account in relation to not staffing up appropriately for that," he said.
"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.
"We managed to staff up for 73 additional aircrafts well in advance and it's incumbent on the airports to get their planning better next year."
After shedding thousands of jobs during the pandemic, the travel industry has struggled to recruit, train and security-check new staff quickly enough to keep up with resurgent demand.
Airlines have been blamed for taking more bookings than they can manage, while airports have also been criticised for not being able to cater for more flights.
Meanwhile, aviation industry leaders have argued the government could have done more to support the sector during the pandemic.
The industry has also been threatened by strike action, with many staff demanding pay rises to cope with the rising cost of living.
Ryanair has faced battles with unions after it cut salaries during the pandemic, but said it had agreed deals with more than 80% of its pilots and about 70% of cabin crews.
"We hope to conclude agreements with the small remaining balance in the near future," the group said.
Mr Sorahan told the BBC that any strike action that had taken place had a "minimal impact" on services.
Despite currently facing industrial disputes in France, Belgium and Spain over pay and conditions, Ryanair has suffered the least disruption and cancellations of major European carriers in recent months.
In the first six months of 2022, Ryanair cancelled 0.3% of flights, compared with British Airways' total of 3.5%, and EasyJet's 2.8%, according to air travel consultancy OAG.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary previously told the BBC that the company's "strong balance sheet" going into the pandemic enabled it to keep staff on, albeit on reduced pay, and maintain training at the height of Covid so they were able to ramp up operations when restrictions were lifted.
Mr Sorahan said Ryanair was "fully staffed" and operating more than 3,000 flights a day as many people venture on their first summer holiday since pandemic restrictions were lifted.
Ryanair said it remained "confident that we can operate almost 100% of our scheduled flights, while minimising delays and disruptions for our guests and their families".
The airline said its passenger numbers had rebounded to 45.5 million – 9% higher than before the Covid pandemic – but its first quarter profits were still short of pre-Covid levels.
The company said its fuel costs had soared by 560% to €1bn and added the Ukraine war had "badly damaged" Easter bookings and fares.
Mr O'Leary said in a statement on the company's results that unpredictability around fuel prices, the risk of new Covid variants and the war in Ukraine meant the company was unable to forecast a profit for the full financial year.
"While we remain hopeful that the high rate of vaccinations in Europe will allow the airline and tourism industry to fully recover and finally put Covid behind us, we cannot ignore the risk of new Covid variants in autumn 2022. Our experience… shows how fragile the travel market remains," he said.
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