A massive cash boost at the start of the pandemic has helped Luton Airport avoid the chaos affecting other airports says the boss of Luton Rising.
Graham Olver, CEO of Luton Rising, which owns the airport, says the £45million given by the company’s sole shareholder, Luton Council, to the airport operators at the start of the pandemic, meant there were only 50 compulsory redundancies, helping the airport bounce back quicker than many of its rivals.
He said: “It’s been hard to escape the wall-to-wall media coverage lately highlighting scenes of “chaos” and lengthy queues at UK airports.
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“But one airport that has been noticeably absent from these stories is London Luton Airport (LLA). There is a good reason for that.
“For the year to date, average waiting times at LLA have been 15 minutes for check-in, 7 minutes for security, and 11 minutes for passport control.
“The answer lies in LLA’s unique, but highly effective ownership model. Luton Rising, the company that owns the airport, is itself owned for community benefit through its sole shareholder, Luton Council. The airport is operated by a separate company, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL), which is backed by AENA, the world’s largest airport operator, and AMP Capital, a specialist global investment manager.
“As LLA, like all airports, saw passenger numbers plunge at the start of the pandemic, Luton Rising and LLAOL signed a new partnership agreement, with Luton Rising providing £45 million in funds to stabilise the airport’s revenue.
“This provided the financial stability allowing LLA to keep nearly all of its directly employed staff, with just 50 compulsory redundancies, far fewer than any other UK airport. As the economy recovered, and the job market tightened, LLA reacted with improved pay and conditions for the lowest paid workers, as well as setting up a dedicated security recruitment team. This meant that the airport was far better prepared for the subsequent bounce-back.”
He added: “Our owner/ operator partnership creates a balanced eco-system between the needs of passengers, airlines, the community and the environment. Indeed, because we are owned for the benefit of the community, our values are not just financial. We can justifiably claim to be the most socially impactful airport in the country, with, for example, a level of contribution per passenger to community organisations which is more than 20x that of any other UK airport.
“By the same token, our recent partnership agreement also includes provisions to enhance local recruitment for jobs at the airport, ensuring that all airport employees receive the Real Living Wage, and strengthened commitments on environmental impact.
“We are always looking forward – how can we create more value, in all senses of the word? In this instance, we were looking past the pandemic, focussing on recovery and what that would require.