AMSTERDAM/PARIS/DOHA, June 19 (Reuters) – After 21 years as a service agent for Air France (AIRF.PA), Karim Jeffal left his job during the COVID-19 pandemic to start his own coaching company.
“If this doesn’t work, I will not return to the aviation sector,” the 41-year-old man says bluntly. “Some shifts started at 4 am and others ended at midnight. It can be tiring.”
Jeffal provides insight into what airports and airlines across Europe are facing as they seek to hire thousands of people to cope with a resurgent demand dubbed “revenge travel” as people seek to catch up on vacation during the pandemic.
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Airports in Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands have tried to offer perks, including pay raises and bonuses, to workers who bring friends.
Leading operators have already marked thousands of vacancies across Europe. read more But industry officials say European aviation as a whole has lost 600,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic.
However, analysts and industry representatives say the surge in hiring cannot happen fast enough to eliminate the risk of flight cancellations and long waits for travelers even after the summer peak.
A summer when air travel was supposed to return to normal after a two-year pandemic vacuum risks turning into a summer when the model for mass, low-cost air travel collapsed – at least in Europe’s growing integrated market.
This spring, labor shortages and strikes have already led to work disruptions in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Frankfurt.
Airlines like budget giant easyJet (EZJ.L) are canceling hundreds of summer flights, and more strikes are brewing in Belgium, Spain, France and Scandinavia.
As industry leaders travel to the Qatar summit this week, the main topic will be who is responsible for the chaos between airlines, airports and governments.
“There is a lot of dirt, but each side is to blame for not coping with the resurgence in demand,” said James Halstead, managing partner at consultancy Aviation Strategy.
The aviation industry has lost 2.3 million jobs globally during the pandemic, with ground handling and safety hardest hit, according to the Air Transport Action Group, which represents the industry.
Many workers are hesitant to return, tempted by the gig economy or retiring early.
“Now they clearly have alternatives and they can change jobs,” said Rico Luman, senior economist at ING.
While he expects travel pressure to ease after the summer, he says shortages may persist as older workers are left out and, crucially, fewer younger workers are willing to replace them.
“Even if there is a recession, the labor market will remain tight for at least this year,” he said.
According to the CFDT trade union, the main factor slowing down hiring is the time it takes for new workers to gain security clearance in France, up to five months for the most important vacancies.
Marie Marivel, 56, works as a security operator, screening luggage at CDG around…