Nationals Leader David Littleproud has defended his predecessor Barnaby Joyce’s handling of government aid for ground staff at the airport after reports he had been warned of the impending travel chaos.

Since Australia’s domestic borders reopened in late 2021, passengers have often faced delayed flights, long queues, canceled trips and lost luggage.

These problems have been continuously attributed to post-Covid labor shortages as the public returns to airports in increasing numbers.

Camera iconHuge crowds have packed Australia’s airports since domestic travel has restarted. NCA NewsWire / John Gass Credit: News Corp Australia

The Daily Telegraph reported that the Australian Aviation Ground Handlers Industry Alliance (AAGHIA) has told Mr Joyce that there will be no flights in late 2021 and early 2022 due to a labor shortage due to a lack of government support.

But Mr Littleproud said Mr Joyce had supported the airline industry in other ways and “did the best he could” in a difficult situation.

“Barnaby had taken other steps to support that industry,” he told the Today show on Monday.

“While they may be sitting there now and slandering Barnaby, the fact is we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. He had made other arrangements for the ground crew. It’s about trying to make sure we have the right balance.

“This was a tricky situation where we were really playing from a playbook that hadn’t been written before and we had to be sensible with Australian taxpayers’ money. He did his best with the resources we had.”

DAVID LITTLEPROUD
Camera iconNationals leader David Littleproud said Barnaby Joyce “did the best with the resources we had”. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

The AAGHIA told Joyce it was concerned that ground staff employed by outside companies would be barred from government aid to the airline industry.

Mr Joyce reportedly said in response that funding was being provided for employee training and accreditation, and that staff had access to Covid disaster payments when needed.

Airports across the country are preparing for their busiest period since the start of the pandemic.

School holidays began Friday in Victoria and Queensland, causing massive crowds to flock to airports in those states in recent days.

Melbourne airport is preparing for more than 2.1 million passengers during the school holidays, some 400,000 more than during the busy Easter period earlier this year.

The airport’s director, Lorie Argus, said last week it was still dealing with staff shortages and warned passengers to be prepared to live “without” their luggage if it goes missing.

“Of course we still see some staff shortages. I think that’s a global challenge, especially for the airlines,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot of standby, we’ve got more electricians and craftsmen on standby. During peak periods, we put a lot of extra support in the system to make sure we can handle those queues and that demand.

“What I would recommend is making sure that you have the most important items of your luggage in your carry-on, and that you are prepared that if you have a mishandled bag, you can live without that luggage for a short time.”

Passengers are advised to arrive one to two hours before a domestic flight and two to three hours earlier for international travel.

School holidays begin this week in NSW, Western Australia and the ACT, while starting July 9 in South Australia and Tasmania.

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