Canceled flights, congested airports… Air traffic threatened by a labor shortage

Canceled flights, congested airports... Air traffic threatened by a labor shortage

Due to a lack of personnel, airports and airlines are unable to manage the sudden resumption of air traffic.

After cutting back on its workforce to deal with the health crisis, the air sector is now struggling to cope with the resumption of traffic. At Amsterdam-Schipol, the third busiest airport in Europe, queues have been stretching outside the building for several weeks, in particular due to the lack of security personnel. Exasperated, the unions concerned brandished the threat of a strike on Thursday, saying they were ready for “large-scale” action next week as employees “fall from fatigue”.

Amsterdam is just one example among many. At the beginning of May, the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe) already conceded the existence of “significant constraints” resulting in the congestion of airports throughout Europe. “The immediate challenge is to manage the sudden increase in traffic, given that the pandemic has had the effect of enormously reducing the resources of airports and ground handling”, detailed the general manager of the organization, Olivier Jankovec.

“Now it’s about rehiring, in a very tight labor market across Europe,” he added, stressing that “it is impossible to make adjustments overnight given the processes of ‘security accreditation and the time required for training’.

4,000 vacancies at Orly and Roissy

In Orly and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle where the lack of arms is just as worrying, the hiring campaign has already begun. In total, 4000 positions are to be filled on the Parisian platforms. But Groupe ADP is facing “enormous” recruitment difficulties, had indicated on BFM Business are CEO, Augustin de Romanet:

“What concerns us is the good experience of the passenger and in particular in the screening inspection posts (security check, editor’s note). And today, companies are having a lot of trouble recruiting” in this sector, had – he underlined also citing the need for “maintenance technicians” to sort luggage while Paris airports recorded a further increase in traffic in April with 7 million passengers welcomed (Bourget included), i.e. 73.4% of the level of April 2019.

As summer approaches, Frankfurt airport, which also fears congestion, is seeking to recruit 1,000 people.

Airlines affected

The labor shortage also affects airlines. Starting with KLM, which announced the suspension until Monday of the sale of tickets from Amsterdam-Schipol. For its part, the low cost company easyJet, faced with a lack of flight personnel and pilots, has announced that it will remove seats from its planes this summer. On about sixty devices, the group will take off with 150 passengers instead of 156 in normal times, with 3 crew members instead of 4.

Air-France could also experience difficulties when the national company has decided to cut 7,500 jobs in 2020, or nearly 20% of its workforce.

The issues are the same across the Atlantic. “In the United States, there is a huge shortage of pilots which is forcing many American companies to cancel flights this summer (…) in some places. There are not at all enough border policemen or customs officers or security guards,” said Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith.

Raphael Couderc with Paul Louis