The aviation industry has been thrown into chaos in recent months in the first test of its post-pandemic operations. Travellers have been left with last-minute messages and announcements of flights being cancelled, lost luggage and achingly long queues which worsened during the school holidays.
The UK’s second busiest airport, London Gatwick, has announced it will be forced to cancel flights and limit its capacity due to the staff shortage issue in the industry.
Gatwick announced on Friday that the flights would be reduced from 900 per day to 825 a day in July and 850 in August.
Gatwick’s chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Airlines will have to trim back their schedules somewhat.”
He added that this would mean “everybody gets more certainty. They can at least have confidence in July and August that flights will operate.”
Now airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and TUI are utilising a loophole to do with employment which will allow them to hire EU crews for their flights without the need for the staff to hold British work visas.
The airlines will be borrowing EU-registered aircraft under wet leasing agreements which means they can dodge post-Brexit immigration regulations to employ the EU staff without a work visa for Britain, it has been reported.
One Twitter user commented on the EU loophole saying: “So this is fair? Brits are not able to have freedom in EU since BREXIT, but it’s fine to open up and let EU citizens in when they want?
“This is totally unfair, Tories have stitched up Brits, the EU have gained from Brexit, but Brits left with nothing.”
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At the beginning of the month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps rejected the wet leasing process, saying it was doubtful that the Home Office would alter its rules for the industry while others are struggling with the same issues.
According to industry sources, British Airways has used four Finnair aircraft and four from Iberia instead of using any of the UK-registered places which are in storage.
A spokesman for British Airways said: “To offer our customers access to as many destinations as possible, our partner airlines are operating some European flights for us as we continue to rebuild our operation.”
Meanwhile, both TUI and EasyJet have wet leased eight planes from SmartLynx Airlines from Latvia and both airlines declined to comment on the matter.
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Airlines have acknowledged the use of wet leasing and said that it is common practice in the industry and does not breach UK immigration law.
Industry bosses have asked the Government to consider the use of temporary visas typically given to seasonal workers such as fruit pickers.
In a call with the Department of Transport on Friday, the airlines warned that if immigration laws are not altered to accommodate their staffing issues, more EU-registered aircraft will be used.
Over 2.5million passengers are thought to fly to and from the UK with the three airlines in EU-registered aircraft and with overseas staff.