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Air travel industry recruiting hard ahead of school holidays

With school holidays fast approaching, the air travel industry is working hard to avoid a repeat of this year’s Easter holiday chaos.

Sydney Airport hopes to fill 4000 positions with its second jobs fair of the year; the one held in June filled about 2500 of the 5000 available roles.

There will be extra customer service representatives in the terminals during the September-October school holiday period.

Airport management is keen to avoid the chaotic scenes seen at Easter, which left massive queues outside terminals.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder defended the beleaguered airline in an op-ed on Monday, after Qantas faced criticism over its handling of post-lockdown travel demand.

Qantas is well on its way to fixing the “unacceptable” slip in standards, after months of abrupt flight cancellations, delays and lost baggage, Mr Goyder said.

Part of the airline’s efforts include onboarding 1500 workers since April to help address a worker shortage affecting the whole sector.

“Service levels improved back towards pre-COVID standards in August and improved further into September. By October, we expect to be back to our best.”

Test drive for Christmas travel period

Australian Frequent Flyer editor Matt Graham told The New Daily airports and airlines have been preparing for the school holiday period, which will test their operations and staff levels.

“There’s clearly a labour market shortage across, not just the aviation industry, but across the whole country and overseas,” he said.

“It would be a good test to see what might happen at Christmas.”

The sector’s workforce shortage has left airline’s struggling to keep up with demand, with a recent report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission finding the domestic airline industry reported the worst on-time performance on record in July, as well as cancellation rates more than three times the long-term average.

Low-cost carrier Rex performed significantly better than more established airlines for punctuality and rate of cancellations, which the airline attributed to keeping its staff despite reduced flying over the past two years.

With the country’s unemployment rate sitting at a 48-year low of 3.4 per cent, it is likely the sector will struggle to reach peak form in time for the school holidays.

The air travel industry is also contending with the bad publicity of current employees campaigning against low and stagnant wages, while top executives such as Qantas CEO Alan Joyce rake in millions.

Qantas has started to see the value in upping wages, as the airline expects to spend about $50 million on pay increases for EBA-covered employees by the end of the financial year 2023, taking its average non-executive salary to more than $100,000.

Gui Lohmann, professor in air transport and tourism management at the Griffith Institute for Tourism, said although there isn’t enough time before the September-October school holidays to fully repair the sector’s issues, there is hope for the Christmas and New Year period.

But he said the government is not doing enough to help fill roles in the sector.

The government has agreed to a one-off lift of Australia’s permanent skilled migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 to ease the national worker shortage, but Dr Lohmann said this does nothing to help airlines and airports.

“It’s in the hands of the Commonwealth government to adjust the policies to make sure that we have qualified people at various levels to carry out these jobs.”



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