Mara Nieuwsma

19th April 2022


Staffing woes impact airport travellers

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Over the last several weeks, travellers have been gearing up for spring holidays with the reopening of many international borders. At the same time, airports should have been gearing up for the increased activity. Unfortunately, the excitement of boarding a plane for the first time since the pandemic has been dampened for thousands of travellers facing multi-hour queues, some resulting in missed flights and ruined holidays.

This disaster has reportedly been caused by staff shortages resulting from Covid-related absences and a tough recruitment market. However, many airports laid off staff during the pandemic and may be looking to save costs now by not replacing them – regardless of the effect on their customers.

So, is there a trend toward reduced headcount at airports, and how has their productivity been impacted?

The latest Plimsoll Analysis shows some reductions in headcount, which is no surprise given the near closure of most airports for nearly two years. But the staffing changes at the five major airports shown above are not as stark as might be anticipated. The real impact is shown in the sales per employee data, where all 5 airports had at least a 50% reduction in their productivity levels. With air travel only just returning to pre-pandemic levels, it may be some time before the management is willing to increase headcount in line with revenue.

The new Plimsoll Analysis has vetted the financial health and outlook of the UK’s 47 leading airports. Based on the latest data, this interactive analysis of the UK market shows:

  • 40 companies were rated as Danger or Caution, 85% of the market
  • Profit margins have fallen by over 60% in the latest period
  • Sales per employee have fallen dramatically from £195,000 to £77,500
  • After recent sales growth of only 3.4%, the market has contracted significantly in the latest period
  • 68% of companies have seen their debt position deteriorate in the latest year

The Plimsoll Analysis provides an instant assessment of the health and sustainability of the UK’s leading airports. It provides advanced warning of who is most likely to survive the staffing crisis and who could continue to suffer. For the airport industry and those who serve it, it provides an instant benchmark of the performance against the rest of the UK market and the insight you need to develop your strategy.

The UK’s airports are possibly being too cautious in their staffing initiatives, and travellers may take this into account over the coming months when deciding where to spend their precious holiday time and money. Given the difficult recruitment market affecting many sectors, should they try to get ahead of the summer travel wave or wait until their profits begin to rebound?

More information about the Plimsoll Analysis on the UK airport industry is available here.

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