Since the beginning of the summer, the turmoil involving many major airports in North America and Europe has not eased so much, and media and social media users report on hordes of impatient travelers and piles of misplaced suitcases. I keep doing it.
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Canceled flight. A long line. Staff strike. I have no luggage.
Are you familiar with it? Since the summer, the turmoil involving many major airports in North America and Europe hasn’t eased so much, and media and social media users continue to report on hordes of impatient travelers and piles of misplaced suitcases. increase.
Just this week, German airlines Lufthansa has canceled almost all flights In Frankfurt and Munich, about 130,000 travelers were stranded due to a day’s strike by ground staff who were on strike for better wages.
Heathrow Airport in London and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam — Two of Europe’s Largest Travel Hubs —Reduce passenger capacity When Request airlines to reduce flights Offended both travelers and airline managers inside and outside the airport.
Career The United States also canceled and postponed tens of thousands of flights Due to staff shortages and weather issues.
Airlines are blaming airports and governments aloud. On Monday, Neil Sorahan, chief financial officer of low-cost carrier Ryanair, complained that the airport had “one thing to do.”
Uncollected suitcases at Heathrow Airport. Britain’s largest airport has instructed airlines to stop selling summer tickets.
Paul Ellis | Afp | Getty Images
However, many in the industry say airlines are also partially responsible for staff shortages, and the situation is so dire that it can threaten safety.
CNBC spoke with several pilots flying to major airlines. All of them described long-term fatigue and the desire for opportunism and cost savings as part of the toxic “race to the bottom” culture that is prevalent in the industry and exacerbating turmoil. The situation travelers are facing today.
All airline staff were not allowed to speak to the press, so they spoke anonymously.
“From a passenger’s point of view, it’s an absolute nightmare,” a pilot of European low-cost carrier easyJet told CNBC.
“For the summer, it was an absolute genocide because the airlines didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t have a proper plan. They wanted to do it. All I had to do was fly as humanly as possible, as if a pandemic had never happened. ”
“But they forgot to reduce all their resources.”
Subsequent imbalances “made our lives an absolute mess for both flight attendants and pilots,” the pilot added, explaining the lack of ground staff ever since. Covid pandemic Layoffs, which handle baggage, check-in, security, etc., have created a domino effect that throws a wrench into the flight schedule.
EasyJet said in a statement that employee health and well-being are “our top priorities”: “We take the responsibility of our employers very seriously, on competitive terms and in local law. We are hiring employees on a local contract in line with. “
The industry currently lacks sufficient resources for retraining, former staff do not want to return, lows that have remained significantly restrained despite significant improvements in airline profits since the pandemic era cuts It is hampered by a combination of factors such as wages.
“They told pilots they were reducing until at least 2030, except that all managers were returning to full salaries and salaries due to inflation,” a British Airways pilot said. Told.
The pilot added that “various governments that are regulated and do not support the aviation sector” and airport companies have blamed most of the current turmoil. “Some airlines have taken advantage of this situation to cut salaries, sign new contracts, fire people, and now things are back to normal and can’t be dealt with.”
Today, many airports and airlines are recruiting and offering better salaries, but the training programs and security clearance processors required have also been significantly reduced and overwhelmed, further embarrassing the sector.
British Airways ground staff were scheduled to strike in August over the fact that the full amount had not yet been returned. This was especially devastating when the CEO of BA’s parent company, IAG, was given a total living allowance of £ 250,000 ($ 303,000). One year period.
But this week, airlines and trade unions have agreed to raise salaries to stop the planned strike, but some staff say they haven’t fully returned to pre-pandemic wages.
Nur Photo via Nicholas Economou / Getty Images
“The last two years have been devastating to the entire aviation industry. We have taken action to restructure our business to survive and save employment,” British Airways said in a statement. I did. “
“Most of the redundancy during this period was voluntary,” the company said.
“We are fully focused on building resilience in our business to give our customers the certainty they deserve,” the airline said.
IAG CEO Luis Gagego, who owns the BA, lost a £ 900,000 bonus in 2021 and made voluntary salary cuts in 2020 and 2021 and did not receive the 2020 bonus.
A pilot flying to Dubai’s flagship Emirates said short-term thinking that took employees for granted laid the foundation for today’s situation.
“For years, airlines were happy to try to lower the wages of many in the industry, assuming they had nowhere else to go,” the pilot said. “And now they are shocked because they are exercising their right to go somewhere. It’s unbelievable. I’m shocked that they are shocked. “
All pilots interviewed by CNBC state that all this stress on airline staff occurs in addition to the often neglected problem of pilot fatigue.
The legal maximum flight time for pilots is 900 hours per year. But for many airlines, “it wasn’t considered the absolute maximum. It was seen as the goal of trying to make the workload of everyone as efficient as possible. “EasyJet Pilot said.
“That’s a big concern for us. We have a pretty toxic culture and a huge amount of work,” the Emirates pilot echoed. “It all potentially reduces the safety margin, and that’s a big concern.”
According to pilots, this is all combined with low-paying, unattractive contracts, many of which were rewritten when the pandemic struggled with air travel.
“All these little toxic soups, airports and airlines share the same level of blame, which has been a race to the bottom for years,” said an Emirates pilot. “They just try to get as little as they can get away with paying.”
Emirates did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
“Crony capitalists. Race to the bottom. We don’t respect skilled workers right now,” said the BA pilot about corporate leadership in the industry. “They just want the cheapest workforce to generate their own big bonuses and keep shareholders happy.”
In response to these criticisms, the International Air Transport Association said, “The aviation industry is increasing resources as quickly as possible to meet the needs of travelers safely and efficiently.” “There is no doubt that these are tough times for workers in the industry, especially where they are in short supply.”
Trade associations have issued a recommendation to “attract and retain talent in the ground handling sector,” and “securing additional resources where defects exist is one of the top priorities of industry management teams around the world. “.
“And in the meantime, the patience of the traveler,” he added.