I was intrigued to read about new approaches by airlines to dealing with ground staff shortages at airports.
Citing “baggage issues” at European airports in particular, [Delta Air Lines] said it recently sent one of its aircraft to Europe to repatriate luggage that had gone missing.
That came after Icelandic national broadcasting service RUV reported that Icelandair has been flying two baggage handlers on its Amsterdam Schiphol services amid staffing shortages at the Dutch hub. It is considering doing the same on other routes, RUV quoted Icelandair’s director of communications and sustainability, Asdis Petursdottir, as saying..
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It is certainly the case that the industry still needs solutions to its operational challenges, with moves to cap summer capacity continuing this week … London Heathrow airport announced a capacity cap for the peak summer travel season and requested that its airline customers stop selling tickets for the period, citing the challenges posed by the “legacy of Covid”.
That drew a strong response from Emirates Airline, which on Thursday described the move as “unreasonable and unacceptable” and vowed to continue its full schedule of Heathrow services.
Its comments were along similar lines to those made at the end of last week by Jet2 executive chair Philip Meeson, who said “most” of the airline’s 10 base airports in the UK – which do not include Heathrow – have been “poorly resourced”, while ground-handlers had shown an “inexcusable” inability to cope and demonstrated “often atrocious” customer service.
There’s more at the link.
Europe has particularly bad air travel problems right now, but the USA has more than enough of its own. There are many factors causing the problem, starting with airlines having laid off many of their experienced staff during the collapse in air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereafter, governments rushed to subsidize the unemployed, making it more lucrative for lower-paid workers (like ground baggage handlers) to remain on unemployment benefits rather than return to work. Add to that the “work-from-home” approach adopted by many companies during the pandemic, which many workers actually preferred, being able to be around their families and away from the stress of commuting and the pressures of being under constant supervision. Finally, with the threat of COVID-19 receding, many more people are traveling, placing great pressure on airlines and systems that had contracted their operations and no longer have enough staff to quickly or easily expand them. We’ve seen the results in thousands of cancelled flights, delays, and lost baggage.
One can therefore understand Delta (and other airlines) flying staff to destinations experiencing particular problems, to try to help sort them out before they become unmanageable. The only problem I can foresee is, how do the staff get back to their homes? We already see pilots and cabin staff forced to overnight elsewhere because there aren’t enough flights to the right cities to get them home on time. What about ground staff? Will they, too, have to be accommodated by the airlines, at considerable expense? Will they put up with the disruption to their family time? It’s never been part of their job description before, and I’m not sure they’ll be willing to accept it now.
All in all, I’m glad I don’t have to fly anywhere for the foreseeable future. At least, using a vehicle, I don’t have anyone else to blame if my baggage doesn’t arrive at my destination at the same time I do!
How about you, readers? How many of you fly frequently? Any horror stories (or good ones) to share with us? Let us know in Comments.