A summer of chaos: Understaffed airlines struggle to cope with the return to travel


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The return of international travel has brought with it airport chaos across Canada. Flight cancellations, lost luggage and a general lack of customer support are chief among the problems currently facing travellers.

Labour shortages are the driving force behind a lot of these issues. Airlines simply haven’t rehired enough staff to deal with the current spike in air-travel.

“It’s a mess,” says John Gradek, faculty lecturer and academic coordinator for the aviation management program at McGill University.

“They can’t fly those airplanes that they put out there,” he says.

“They’re short pilots (and) they’re short flight attendants.” Airlines were likely hoping they could make do with skeleton staff by relying on overtime, but as August rolled around, they started running out of overtime, he says.


Why is there a shortage of workers?

Canada has supplied relief funding to Air Canada, Air Transit and Porter Airlines throughout the pandemic. However, these companies still have much of their workforce laid off. Airlines are opting to work through the busiest periods in the last two years, with the bare bones.

Air Canada stated that despite being “thoroughly prepared”, the traffic levels they have faced this summer “were stronger than anyone in the industry expected.”

In June there was an estimated 800,000 unfilled jobs in the industry.


What’s being done to solve airport chaos?

The pressure to solve these problems often falls on the airport staff, most of whom are very new to their positions. Many of the lower paid workers left the industry in response to the layoffs of the last couple of years. As a result, there is now a dire lack of experience in customer facing positions across the board in air travel.

Inevitably, this results in poor customer service. Long wait times have ruined the experience of many this summer, with customers left waiting up to seven hours to speak to customer service call centres.


How we can help:

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