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Staff shortages continue to put peak travel season at risk

news Press Release

London – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today said that the failure by governments and industry to address the systemic issues that have made aviation an unattractive place to work are highly likely to disrupt the supply chain and cause flight delays, airport congestion and beleaguered service levels during the upcoming peak travel season.   

On the back of today’s announcement from EasyJet to cancel 1,700 flights, ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said that the ITF projects another chaotic peak travel season as a number of airlines and airports pare down schedules or implement passenger caps as a result of staff shortages that continue lag behind the industry’s rebound. 

“Recruitment levels across aviation including air traffic controllers, pilots, maintenance engineers, flight attendants and ground staff continue to lag behind demand,” said Cotton. “And passengers should understand that the anticipated travel disruptions are not the fault of the frontline workers who are doing their best in these exceptional circumstances.”  

“We hear that shallow incentives are being used to poach staff when the lack of decent work, reasonable hours and fair wages are at the heart of the matter. It’s time to stop putting bandaids on broken bones.” 

Cotton said that the inability of governments to ensure adequate staffing levels in customs and immigration in many countries is further exacerbating the situation. 

“Last summer’s service catastrophe remains etched in the memories of millions of passengers and holidaymakers who felt the painful effects of the loss of more than 2 million skilled workers across airlines, airports and aviation supply chains. Sadly, the shortages continue and so too does the risk to summer travel.”  

Shortages, and poor wages and working conditions, have sparked labour unrest in key aviation markets across the globe as unions strive to address fundamental issues that are at the root of the problem. Last month saw the cancellation of dozens of flights out of Switzerland’s hub in Geneva until an agreement was reached with the workers’ union after the airport authority imposed a freeze on pay increases. 

“Due to the global nature of aviation, the resolution doesn’t rest on the shoulders of any one party, but demands a coordinated response from all affected parties,” said Cotton. “While there has been some progress in some parts of the world, aviation’s sustainability remains at risk.” 

“We invite governments and employers to sit down with unions to proactively address the high levels of outsourcing, temporary contracts, undesirable shift patterns, low wages and limited benefits that prevent aviation from being the compelling employment proposition it once was."

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