After 21 years as a service agent at Air France, Karim Zefal quits his job during the COVID-19 pandemic to start his own job-coaching consultancy.
“If it doesn’t work out, I won’t go back to the aviation sector,” the 41-year-old frankly says. “Some shifts started at 4 am and others ended at midnight. This can be tedious. ,
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Jaffle provides a taste of what’s up against airports and airlines across Europe, as they race to hire thousands of people to deal with resurgent demand, dubbed “revenge travel” because People want to make up for the holidays they lost during the pandemic.
Airports in Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands have tried to offer perks, including pay increases and bonuses, for employees who refer a friend.
Leading operators have already flagged off thousands of openings across Europe. But industry says European aviation has lost 600,000 jobs overall since the start of the pandemic.
Yet the hiring blitz may not come fast enough to eliminate the risk of canceled flights and longer waits for passengers, say analysts and industry executives.
The summer when air travel was about to return to normal after a two-year pandemic was in danger of becoming a summer when the high-volume, low-cost air travel model broke down – at least in Europe’s vast unified market.
Labor shortages and strikes have already caused disruption in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Frankfurt this spring.
Airlines like low-cost giant EasyJet are canceling hundreds of summer flights and striking new ones in Belgium, Spain, France and Scandinavia.
As industry leaders head for a summit in Qatar this week, a major theme will be who will take responsibility for the chaos between airlines, airports and governments.
“There’s a lot of mud-sling, but it’s every side’s fault in not facing a resurgence of demand,” said James Halstead, managing partner at consultancy Aviation Strategy.
The aviation industry says 2.3 million jobs have been lost globally during the pandemic, with ground-handling and security being the hardest hit, according to the Air Transport Action Group, which represents the industry.
Many workers are slow to return because of the lure of the ‘gig’ economy or opting to retire early.
“They clearly have options now and they can switch jobs,” said Rico Luman, ING’s senior economist.
While he expects travel pressure to ease after the summer, he says shortages could persist as older workers stay away and, critically, fewer younger workers are willing to replace them.
“Even if there is a recession, the labor market will remain tight at least this year,” he said.
According to the CFDT union, a major factor is the time it takes for new employees to get security clearance in France for up to five months for the most sensitive jobs.
Marie Marivel, 56, works as a security operator at CDG, checking baggage at CDG for about 2,100 euros ($2,200) a month after-tax.
He says that due to shortage of staff, more work is being done. Stranded passengers are getting aggressive. Morale is low.
“We have young people who come and go again after a day,” she says. “They tell us that we are earning cashier’s wages for the job with so much responsibility.”
After much disruption in May, the situation in France is stabilizing, said Anne Rigel, chief executive of the French arm of Air France-KLM.
Nevertheless, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, where a union called for a strike on July 2, still need to fill a total of 4,000 vacancies, according to the operator.
And in the Netherlands, where unemployment is as low as 3.3 percent, vacant vacancies are at record highs and KLM’s Schiphol hub has seen hundreds of canceled flights and long queues.
Schiphol has now offered a summer bonus of 5.25 euros per hour to 15,000 workers in security, baggage handling, transport and cleaning – a 50 percent increase over the minimum wage.
“It’s certainly huge, but it’s still not enough,” said Union FNV’s Jost van Doesburg.
“To be honest, the last six weeks haven’t really been an advertisement for coming to work at the airport.”
Schiphol and London’s Gatwick unveiled plans to cap capacity during the summer last week, forcing airlines, airports and politicians to cancel more because of the crisis.
Luis Felipe de Oliveira, head of the Global Airports Association ACI, told Reuters airports were being unfairly blamed and airlines should work harder to overcome queues and rising costs.
Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association, a global airline industry group meeting in Qatar, has dismissed the breakdown in air travel as “hysteria”.
Walsh in turn accused the disruption at the actions of “stupid politicians” in places like Britain, where frequent changes in COVID policy discouraged hiring.
The IATA meeting of June 19-21 is expected to signal relative optimism about growth, fueled by concerns over inflation.
Such gatherings have over the years portrayed the industry as the positive face of globalization, which adds people and goods at more competitive fares.
But the European labor crisis has exposed its vulnerability to a fragile labor force, which is likely to result in increased rents from rising costs and increased pressure to reorganize.
In Germany, for example, employers say many grassroots workers have joined online retailers such as Amazon.
“It’s more comfortable to pack a hair dryer or computer into a box than to heat a 50-pound suitcase crawling across the fuselage of an airplane,” said Thomas Richter, head of the German ground-handling employers’ association ABL.
Analysts say labor shortages could drive costs up beyond the summer, but it is too early to tell whether the industry should retreat from a pre-pandemic model of steadily increasing volumes and cost-cutting, which generated new avenues and slashed fares. kept low.
However, for some departing employees, Europe’s scorching heat prompts a wake-up call for travelers and owners alike.
“I personally think of flying very cheap … I don’t know how they can really keep up with it,” said a former British Airways cabin crew member, 58, who has taken redundancies.
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