Airlines in the UK have been under intense pressure over the past couple of months as they battle a seemingly never-ending staffing crisis. The staffing shortages have repeatedly forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights because they lack an operable workforce, disrupting flight schedules and causing numerous frustrated passengers to become stranded.
Desperate for the numbers
One such struggling UK carrier is British Airways, which enthusiastically laid off a hefty percentage of its workforce at the height of the pandemic. Unfortunately for the national carrier, rehiring these numbers has been anything but an easy feat as many have moved on to other careers. The result of this is that British Airways has had to cancel many flights. With the incoming summer travel season, the airline can no longer risk cutting its schedules if it wishes to avoid significant backlash.
Like the rest of the aviation industry, the London Heathrow-based carrier has tried traditional methods such as opening several recruitment drives to plug the staffing shortfalls. However, the airline encountered challenges here, due to a backlog in security vetting by the Department of Transport for new staff. Hence, it is clear that the London-based carrier can no longer wait, so it is time for less traditional methods.
In another attempt to temporarily solve the workforce shortage, British Airways has been seeking to hire new cabin crew who already have an airside pass. And as the cherry on top, the airline will offer a sign-on bonus of £1,000 ($1,041), with half paid after three months on the job and the remainder paid out after six months. This current sign-on bonus is double what the national carrier was offering just a few months ago. New hires can also avail of the typical British Airways benefits, such as immediate access to staff travel, generous overtime payments, and the buyback of annual leave and days off.
A similar sign-on bonus is being offered for ramp agents and bus drivers at Heathrow Airport, where staffing shortages have been muddying the operations for British Airways over the last couple of months. Photo: Arran Rice | Single Flying
flying on the bandwagon
Also struggling for staff is low-cost carrier easyJet, which is pinning a great deal of hope on a summer holiday boom as it lost more than £500 million ($724 million) in the first half of this year. Like its full-cost rival, easyJet has been canceling hundreds of flights due to staff shortages as it struggles to rehire and retain crew. Even with the recruitment drives, easyJet still has about 100 of its recruited 1,100 crew awaiting security clearances.
Thus, the London Luton-based low-cost carrier is also offering cabin crew an attractive bonus that matches British Airways’ golden handshake – but with a competitive difference. easyJet will be extending the bonus to all new and existing crew, who will receive the payout in October as a reward for their efforts during the summer travel boom, as confirmed by the airline:
“easyJet will be paying its cabin crew a recognition payment at the end of the summer season to recognize their contribution to the operation this summer, which is expected to be back at near 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic’.”
Working to the brink
Elsewhere in the world, staffing shortages have also been affecting other airlines. It probably doesn’t help that some airlines have stricter staff policies, causing their workforce to be even more thinly stretched out between ramped-up flight schedules. In the US, cabin crew over at JetBlue have resorted to working with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to write an open letter to the airline’s president.
The New York-based low-cost carrier has been attempting to dissuade cabin crew members from calling in sick because skyrocketing absence levels have resulted in last-minute cancellations and have threatened disciplinary actions. The corrective actions included termination on what JetBlue calls a ‘critical coverage day.’ This is why the TWU wishes to see JetBlue switch from a deterrence policy to an incentive one to reduce the cabin crew burnout, as it states:
“We have a record number of IFCs on Final Progressive Guidance and sadly, have lost many to termination as a result of the vast expansion of Critical Coverage Days, which are exponentially greater in number than any other commercial carrier. Punishment, fear, and intimidation have become the go-to quick fix, and it’s not working. We’re only human and we’re at our breaking point.”
The cabin crew members have also expressed fear of being blamed for almost all of JetBlue’s recent operational disasters. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Single Flying
Staff shortages have long plagued the aviation industry, although most of it has traditionally been pilot shortages. As the turbulent pandemic waves rode out, airlines have quickly recovered and ramped up their route networks – perhaps a little too soon for some. With the soon-to-be-arriving summer travel season, it could genuinely be make or break for these airlines. Will more cancellations occur, or will it be smooth conditions ahead?
Source: This Is Money
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