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Labor Shortages Are Causing Turbulence in Air Travel

Summer travel is booming this year, but it’s also been extremely chaotic. What happened to airlines in recent years that could have caused this chaos?

Revelio Labs

8/9/22

Summer travel is booming this year, but it’s also been extremely chaotic. Constant flight delays, cancellations, and lost luggage are making post-lockdown travel a nightmare. But new data from the Transportation Department show that airlines, not bad weather, are the ones to blame for recent disruptions. So what happened to airlines in recent years that could have caused this chaos?

While the industry started to recover in late 2020, the current headcounts in the US are nowhere near the pre-pandemic level.

active_employees

During the depths of the crisis in October 2020, the US air travel industry shed over 70,000 jobs based on layoff data. As more people were vaccinated and travel restrictions lifted, hiring demand within air travel quickly started bouncing back in June 2020. Recent numbers of job postings even exceeded the pre-pandemic level.

job_postings

Compared to other industries, the attrition rate at which workers left air travel increased more after the pandemic. To make things worse, the boomerang rate – the share of those workers who left the industry and returned – dropped more than all other industries in the months leading up to the summer of 2022.

bar_rates

This high attrition and low boomerang rate for air travel is alarming. Many air travel positions such as Flight Attendants, Pilots, and Aircraft Mechanics require industry specific skills. It is also very time-consuming and expensive to train new hires. Unless these trends dramatically shift, this workforce shortage will continue to cause problems for air travel.

Key takeaways:

  • The pandemic had a devastating impact on the air travel industry.
  • As flight demand came back, the number of active employees in the air travel industry started to recover slowly, but it is nowhere near its pre-pandemic level.
  • High attrition during the pandemic continues to be a big problem for air travel as workers require industry specific skills, which are expensive and take significant time to learn.

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