Airport ground handling staff are being flown in from Gatwick to meet worker shortages caused by the pandemic.
Swissport, which handles most aircraft movements in Jersey on behalf of airlines, cut its 100-strong workforce by more than half last year.
A company spokesman said at the time that it had made 30 compulsory redundancies while 24 workers had left voluntarily.
The company is now recruiting locally, however, it is understood that low numbers of staff did compound problems at the Airport on Friday, when fog disrupted travel in the afternoon and evening.
A number of inbound flights were delayed by the poor visibility but, when the fog did lift, the volume of arriving aircraft put considerable strain on Airport resources, which meant that outbound flights were further delayed.
EasyJet’s service to Liverpool, for instance, was due to depart at 14:45 but did not leave until 22:00. The aircraft did manage to land in Jersey at around 18:00 and was on the ground for four hours, with departing passengers sat onboard for the final two hours.
Delays in dealing with disabled passengers and providing aircrew with required pre-departure information extended the fog-related hold-ups. One passenger writing on social media described the situation as “chaotic”, adding that “emotions were frayed”.
Two disruptive passengers had to be escorted off an Easyjet flight by police officers at 21:30. No arrests were made and the pair flew out the next day.
Pictured: EasyJet's Jersey-Liverpool flight was delayed by more than seven hours on Friday.
A spokesperson for Ports of Jersey said: “Fog descended on the Island late Friday morning, which unfortunately resulted in a number of delays to inbound and outbound flights.
“While flying resumed later that afternoon, there was a knock-on effect to flights, with the displacement of aircraft, which happens when they are used on other services/routes during the day. However, by the end of Friday, all flights had departed, albeit later than originally scheduled.
“It can be frustrating for passengers when the weather impacts the airport’s operation. As always, we worked in close cooperation with our airline partners, their ground agents and Jersey Met to minimise the disruption, sharing information with our passengers as soon as possible after it’s relayed to us.
“It would therefore, be incorrect to suggest that there was 'chaos', rather disruption associated with delays caused by the fog.”
Addressing the issue of resourcing, the spokesperson added: “We are building back into - an almost - full summer service at Jersey Airport. We work closely with key stakeholders at the airport, including ground agents, check-in staff, security, retailers and caterers to prepare for the increasing passenger volumes. On Friday, we handled more than 2,000 passengers.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the travel sector, including Swissport. Swissport has added additional experienced, and security-checked, staff from its other bases to ensure sufficient resource is in place in Jersey.
“When we have a number of aircraft arriving and departing around the same time, especially during times of fog, there is often a small window of opportunity for flying. At such times, there can be unusually large volumes of passengers to handle simultaneously. This can lead to longer queues than would normally be the case and the boarding and arrivals process can take slightly longer than usual.
Pictured: Jet2 launched its Jersey services this weekend.
“We apologise and share our passengers’ frustrations when there are weather-related delays. For all of us at the ports, our priority is always to get people moving as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”
The spokesman added that over the weekend, when the fog had lifted, the Airport had successfully handed more than 5,600 passengers over the two days.
“We are incredibly proud of the way in which our employees have performed throughout the pandemic, to ensure the continuity of the Island’s air and sea supply chains.
“We have worked to replace all of the routes that were lost following the collapse of Flybe and the pandemic.
“We are now fully focused on ramping up the Airport and Harbour operations, enabling islanders to see loved ones and take a break, as well as welcoming the tourists who are vital to the recovery of our visitor economy.”
This weekend saw the launch of Jet2’s new services to Birmingham, East Midlands, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted to complement its existing Leeds Bradford route, as well as the start of services to London City, Isle of Man and Newquay, with BA CityFlyer, Loganair and Blue Islands respectively.
Saturday was the busiest day at the Airport, in terms of aircraft movements, since the start of the pandemic last March, with 54 commercial flights in and out.
Swissport has been invited to comment.
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