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Airlines face 'severe' shortage of ground handlers as travel picks up

June 2, 2022

Aviation industry facing delays in recruiting, re-hiring staff

Airlines are now facing a “severe” shortage of ground handlers as demand for travel picks up and the thousands of jobs lost during the pandemic have yet to be filled, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The aviation industry saw thousands of ground handling personnel laid off at the peak of the health outbreak. Now as aviation ramps up, airlines require additional personnel at airports to accommodate rising passenger numbers.

According to IATA, the aviation sector is facing delays in hiring staff due to employment security clearances that usually take as much as six months in some markets.

The association, which represents many of the world’s leading airlines, is urging for “holistic” reforms to recruit talent more efficiently, streamline onboarding processes and ensure there is a stable talent base for the ground handling sector.

“The peak northern summer travel season is fast-approaching, and passengers are already experiencing the effects of bottlenecks in getting security clearances for staff at the airport,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security.

“The shortages we are experiencing today are a symptom of the longer-term challenges to achieve a stable talent base in ground handling.”

Air travel recovery

Air travel continued to recover in March 2022, which recorded a 76 percent year-on-year increase in total traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs). International RPKs jumped 285.3 percent in March this year compared to the previous year, exceeding the 259.2 percent increase recorded in February.

Within the Middle East, airlines’ traffic jumped 245.8 percent, an improvement compared to the 218.2 percent increase recorded in February 2022. Capacity in March also rose 96.6 percent compared to the previous year, while load factor climbed 31.1 percentage points to 72.1 percent.

One of the region’s biggest long-haul operator, Emirates Airline, had laid off thousands of staff in 2020 following a slump in travel demand. Last October, the carrier announced it would recruit more than 6,000 personnel to boost operational workforce.