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Travel chaos to become the norm without new aviation bodies, say global unions

news 09 Sep 2022
  • Aviation unions call for formation of new national aviation bodies to oversee robust operating standards and sustainable employment practices in the industry.
  • New polling shows only 23% of aviation workers feel respected by their employer, while 89% believe the quality of aviation jobs are declining.
  • ‘A New Deal for Aviation’ also seeks to mandate action from the industry on decarbonisation, digitalisation, and sustainable funding. 

London, UK; Montreal, Canada, 8 September 2022. The world’s aviation unions have endorsed a framework designed to stop travel chaos becoming a permanent feature of the aviation industry, amid warning that the industry is on course for a prolonged period of recurring crises.

The endorsement comes as new polling of over 3,500 aviation workers across 86 countries found that 89% believe the quality of jobs in the aviation industry are on the decline, while only 23% said they felt respected by their employer. Furthermore, only 21% said that their government is doing a good job managing the aviation industry.

The major pillars of the framework, titled the ‘New Deal for Aviation’, will be delivered to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Assembly later this month, urging for the immediate creation of national aviation bodies to address an industry that has “become environmentally, economically, and socially unsustainable.”

Coordinated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and endorsed by over 250 affiliated unions, representing over 1 million aviation workers, this framework would allow for new aviation bodies bringing together governments, employers, unions and the public to create country specific national aviation plans.

These aviation plans will allow transport departments, aviation authorities, employers and unions to address the structural causes of this crisis, with a focus on the significant impact that decades of deregulation and fragmentation has had on the aviation industry’s resilience.

This action from unions comes as the aviation industry reaches breaking point. A result of years of deregulation, privatisation, and the erosion of employee working conditions, leading to worker shortages and widespread travel disruption.   

In a majority of the world’s largest aviation markets, passengers now face thousands of flight cancellations, delays, capacity reductions and even flight capping at some of the world’s largest airports.

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF, commented: “Decades of decline in workers’ wages and working conditions have led the aviation industry to the edge of perpetual chaos.”

“Without a coordinated response that addresses both immediate and longer-term worker shortages, alongside structural transformation, aviation will continue to move from crisis to crisis. Governments have lost control of aviation in their territories, and urgently need to get it back.” 

Unveiled at the ITF’s Civil Aviation Conference in Montreal, Canada, the New Deal for Aviation also seeks to mandate action from the industry on decarbonisation, digitalisation, and sustainable funding. This includes commitment to “genuine carbon neutral growth” beyond 2019 traffic levels, and eliminating violence against aviation workers by implementing key ILO conventions into domestic law.

Edgardo Llano, Chair of the ITF Civil Aviation Section and General Secretary of Argentine union Asociación del Personal Aeronáutico (APA), said: “We need to restore the checks and balances of global aviation.

“In what was once a nationalised industry in countries around the world, the scale has moved too far towards serving the interests of CEOs and shareholders above those of workers and passengers.

“The ‘New Deal’ has the potential to move the scale back, and ensure that both employees and travellers get the treatment they deserve.” 

ITF polling also found that only 11% of aviation workers believe that their employers act in their interest, while 89% believe that they act purely in the interests of the company's shareholders.

A recent industry report found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, 15 of the world’s largest airlines eroded working conditions for hundreds of thousands of aviation workers, including aggressive anti-union tactics and ‘fire and rehire’ policies.

Cotton concluded:

“Aviation needs to be recognised and treated as both a public good and global economic gateway. By coordinating on national aviation plans, employers, unions, and governments, will protect aviation in the short term, while building an industry that is fit for purpose, resilient to future crises, that serves in workers’ and the public’s interest.”




Notes to editors

A New Deal for Aviation lays out key steps for the aviation industry to ensure its long-term viability. Its central recommendations include: 

  • Formation of national aviation bodies that bring together industry stakeholders, including employers, governments and unions, to ensure a resilient and safe aviation service delivery chain.
  • Introduction of robust operating standards for all aviation services as a condition of entry into the industry.
  • Empowerment of airport authorities to coordinate and set standards for service provision at airports.  
  • Inclusion of provisions that safeguard sustainable employment and high safety standards into air service agreements that regulate the operation of air traffic between nations. 
  • Elimination of all forms of violence and harassment against aviation workers by implementing the provisions of mechanisms such as Montreal Protocol 14 and ILO Convention 190 into national law.
  • Commitment to genuine carbon neutral growth beyond 2019 traffic levels.
  • Embedding of aviation workers in decision making through Just Transition Committees at all levels to ensure the industry can retain the highly skilled and experienced workforce that will be crucial to identifying, developing and deploying sustainability initiatives. 
  • Inclusion of workers in decision-making related to the need, development and deployment of digital technologies that complement a highly skilled, safety-critical industry and maintain the human interaction that passengers rely on. 


Aviation Union Member Full Survey:

1.    Do you think that the quality of jobs are declining in the aviation industry?

a.    89%: YES

b.    11%: NO


2.    Do you feel that your job or role is respected by your employer? 

a.    77%: NO

b.    23% YES


3.    In whose interest does your employer act?

a.    87%: Shareholders

b.    13%: Workers


4.    Is your government doing a good or bad job managing the aviation industry?

a.    21%: Doing good

b.    79%: Doing bad


5.    Do you think that the industry would be better if workers were involved in decision making?

a.    96%: YES

b.    4%: NO


About ITF 

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led global federation of 670 trade unions in 147 countries, representing over 18 million workers in all transport sectors. The ITF passionately campaigns for transport workers’ rights, equality and justice.