Covid can no longer be an excuse for chaos

After two years of travel restrictions and expensive testing requirements, holidaymakers will have been looking forward to a trip abroad this Easter. At ports of departure, however, they were greeted with chaos. Flights were cancelled by carriers, including British Airways and Easyjet, while customers complained of queues at Heathrow. Long delays have been reported at Dover, partly a consequence of the suspension of P&O Ferry services. There was disruption to Eurostar because of a broken-down train, while the situation at Heathrow may worsen if baggage maintenance engineers go on strike.

The airlines have blamed the imbroglio in part on Covid-related absences. Certainly, the high prevalence of the virus will be causing trouble for companies that cannot adopt mass working-from-home practices, although there is no longer any legal demand to self-isolate. The travel industry is also still recovering after being poleaxed by lockdown restrictions. Some firms are having to pay more to retain staff, which is putting upward pressure on ticket prices as are higher fuel costs.

Nevertheless, there comes a point where customers will not put up with the excuse “because of Covid”. It is most common in the public sector, where managers seem to have adopted the attitude that staff should be allowed to give their personal lives priority over work. But it is present in the private sector, too, particularly where trade unions retain some power.

Travel chaos is hardly a new phenomenon in Britain, but across the board there is a sense that one of the after-effects of the pandemic has been poorer customer service at higher cost. It is a troubling development, to say the least.

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