The aviation sector’s ongoing difficulties to recruit more staff are here to stay, according to Airlines UK’s chief executive Tim Alderslade.
“There’s a huge number of challenges [to overcome in the industry] and labour will be a real issue moving forward, and not just in the short term,” he said today while speaking at Advantage Travel Partnership’s panel debate.
“It’s going to be a difficult few months as the labour just isn’t there, and it will take a number of years to get back to where we were.”
The trade body’s boss warned that the sector needs to “get [recruitment” right” if it doesn’t want to go through a “really difficult few years,” adding he was already talking to the government about how to make aviation attractive again.
Alderslade explained that while Brexit shrank significantly the recruitment pool the sector has available, post-Covid, those who were made redundant because of the pandemic have decided not to come back.
“People have left aviation to go and work in other parts of the economy and realised, ‘I’ve got a better life doing this,” he said.
“The question is how do we make aviation and travel attractive proposition for young British people coming through, because that’s what the government wants to talk about. I don’t have the answers, but unless we get it right, it’s going to be a really difficult few years.”
Echoed by Advantage’s boss Julia Lo-Bue Said, Alderslade’s words come amid a turbulent moment for the UK’s travel sector.
Over the last few weeks, thousands of travellers were left stranded after a streak of Covid-induced staff shortages created a wreckage over the Easter period, hitting British Airways, easyJet and TUI the most.
According to aviation analyst Sally Gethin, the situation was worsened by travel suddenly reopening after being left out of sector-specific government support for 18 months.
“There was little to no sector specific support during the pandemic, and consequently jobs and incomes haemorrhaged across the sector, despite continuing pleas to government by airline and airport leaders,” she told City A.M.
“Having failed to adequately support air travel throughout the pandemic, and actually hampering it with confusing travel rules, the UK government now has to support aviation as demand increases.
“It has until 1 June to submit its response to the Transport Committee recommendations on a recovery programme for UK aviation.”