Understaffed Industry Struggles to Meet Demand
An unprecedented rise in travellers worldwide is turning into a large number of cancelled flights, delays at airports and losses of luggage as airlines and airports are not able to cope with the high demand. In fact, British Airways has announced it will cut 10% of its flight schedules between March and October, and JetBlue Airways has cut flights for May by between 8% and 10% and is planning to make similar reductions for the summer.
This situation is in part the result of absences in the personnel contracting Covid but predominantly because of the previous cut down of workforce made by the aviation industry during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic which left many airlines and airports with the minimum staff required.
The solution to the crisis is the implementation of a rapid and effective reengaging process. However, reengaging the required workforce is not an easy task. Recruiting in the aviation industry has always happened at a slow pace not only because of the long and detailed recruitment process but also because there has been a permanent and longstanding gap between the personnel required and the personnel available.
This situation gets even more critical when you bring into account factors such as the recency requirements required for aviation staff. As part of the safety procedures that the industry requires, aviation personnel, particularly pilots and engineers are required to meet a certain level of recent experience. As per pilots, it is usually to have at least one flight within the past 3 or 6 months while for engineers it is 100 days of work experience within the past two years.
While pilots and engineers regain their recency (a process which takes between 4 and 6 months), the demand for flights will continue to rise, and airlines will endeavour to control this demand by increasing the prices of tickets and luggage allowances. Yet, after two years of restrictions, travellers are not particularly sensitive to the price of flight tickets right now and seem willing to pay the higher fares.
In the meantime, passengers need to be prepared for cancellations and delays in flights, as this will be part of the journey for most travellers during the summer season. Not to mention, the alarming rise in petrol and oil prices which will continue to push prices up. These situations will continue at least until the industry manages to reengage its personnel to pre-pandemic levels and the uncertainty in the markets settles.