Airline Jobs Have Always Been Hot Commodities, But Now Carriers Can’t Recruit Enough Workers | New
Southwest Airlines has never had a problem recruiting employees as good salaries, large bonuses, flight benefits and regular accolades as one of the best places to work in the country were always sufficient.
But now Greg Muccio and the Dallas-based airline’s recruiting team are working harder to find good candidates, and when those resumes arrive, make sure they keep them.
“After 24 hours of radio silence with a candidate, they’re going to assume they’re no longer a candidate and move on,” said Muccio, director of talent acquisition at Southwest. “Basically every day at 3:30 pm you’re going to hear my team, even if it’s to tell you that there is no news but that you are still in the race.”
Once among the country’s most coveted companies to work for, airlines are suddenly struggling to find workers as they need thousands of new people to keep up with the new realities of travel. Despite its ups and downs, jobs are among the most stable and turnover is low thanks to a largely unionized workforce that has consistently guaranteed wage increases and cost of living adjustments.
In March 2020, Southwest employees earned an average of an additional $ 11,190 in profit-sharing bonuses, although there were no bonuses the following year due to heavy losses from the COVID-pandemic. 19. The median Southwestern worker in 2019 had an average pay of over $ 101,000, including pay and benefits.
But oh, how things have changed in 18 months. Across the travel industry, airlines are competing fiercely for new talent after laying off workers in the first year of the pandemic.
Southwest Airlines is in the midst of a hiring drive to recruit 5,200 new workers by November, which will hopefully provide relief to tired employees ahead of the holiday season. American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, has openings for approximately 4,000 jobs across the company, in addition to the long-term need to hire thousands of pilots in the coming years to deal with departures at retirement.
Delta is hiring 3,000 flight attendants and JetBlue needs 2,500 flight attendants. Airlines have turned to recruiting bonuses of $ 300 to $ 500 in an industry where it’s never been difficult to persuade friends to come work with you.
Airlines are among the largest employers in the North Texas area, with 30,000 employees at American Airlines and 10,800 at Southwest, including thousands more who work at airports or for one of dozens of companies. other airlines here.
“I don’t think a year ago anyone could have anticipated that we would be here looking for so many workers,” said Thomas Rajan, vice president of global talents and total rewards at American Airlines. “In some ways it’s a good problem to have. But it’s harder. “
This is a problem, especially for airlines which ran into big problems this summer when the travel season got chaotic and there weren’t enough pilots, flight attendants and others. additional workers to keep operations running smoothly.
Both the United States and the Southwest have gone through long stretches with hundreds of cancellations due to pilots and flight attendants being out of position and out of hours after weather events.
After complaints from union leaders, American and Southwest said they would cut flight schedules in the fall.
“These schedule changes are intended to relieve you of the staffing issues we are currently facing and provide our customers with a more reliable travel experience,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a message to employees in late August. after reducing flights in October and November. schedules.
“So on the staffing front, we are planning our staffing for the rest of the year by relying less on staffing models based on historical trends and continuing to focus on recruiting to support our future growth. “
Workers may be reluctant to apply for airline jobs for the same reason that they don’t flock to retail outlets and restaurants, aviation consultant George Hamlin said.
“Some people have legitimate concerns about going out into the world and getting COVID,” Hamlin said. “If one of your perks is free travel, there just aren’t that many people who want that perk right now.”
But bringing these new hires into airports will be essential for the holiday travel season, a busy time when nearly every airline employee is expected to work.
“Airlines have basically two months, but who knows what will happen with the virus between now and then?” he said.
In Southwest, the greatest need for workers is on the front lines at airports and call centers, Muccio said. These are essentially the same workers who are hard to find for restaurants, retailers, and other customer service jobs where shortages are rampant.
Southwest raised its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour this summer to attract frontline workers and even behind-the-scenes workers, such as ramp attendants who help load baggage onto planes.
“There is a very large group, over 9 million people, who just haven’t returned to the workforce, and it’s really heavy on people who work by the hour,” Muccio said. “But there are also challenges on the professional side, and the challenge is that some companies see a lot of internal turnover and people don’t stay that long.”
Southwest Airlines is still getting a lot of applicants for jobs, Muccio said. But where it may have received 28 applications for every job posting before the pandemic, the company now receives 14. And often by the time those applications are reviewed and contact is made, the list has already decreases.
Southwest and other companies are actively recruiting mechanics, essential jobs during peak periods.
Emilee Mayfield, who works with recruiting firm HSGI, Inc., said skilled mechanics and technicians get enrollment bonuses, higher wages, and even paid housing to start new businesses or take on jobs. short and long term contractual.
“There is a desperate hunt for mechanics and technicians,” Mayfield said. “People still want to work for airlines, but there is also a lot of demand right now in private and business jet maintenance.
For the first time in more than a decade, aviation recruiter Sharon Ballgae said she received a request from a major regional airline to help her find pilots. This is a rare request as airlines usually have their own large recruiting departments that rely on flight schools and military bases for pilots.
Ballgae said airlines have long known there will be a need for new pilots. American Airlines will see more than 7,000 pilots retire between 2021 and 2030 due to mandatory age limits set by the Federal Aviation Administration. There is also a growing demand from foreign start-up airlines that need experienced pilots.
American lost 1,000 additional pilots during the pandemic due to early retirements, accelerating the need to hire as passenger demand increases.
“There have been ups and downs for flight crews,” Ballgae said. “Some people don’t want to face what’s going on on an airplane now when you have to take personal defense classes to deal with people upset by masks. “
Salary has also increased for pilots to move from airlines to corporate jobs or charter services, from about $ 125,000 a year ten years ago to over $ 175,000, Ballgae said.
But not all jobs are difficult to fill. There is always a great deal of interest in flight attendant jobs, said Rajan at American Airlines. Perhaps this is because of the frequent trips and the possibility of setting favorable schedules.
American Airlines opened hiring for 1,000 flight attendant jobs and received more than 27,000 applications. Southwest has generated similar interest in the first new class of flight attendants it has hired since the pandemic. Both airlines have reduced the number of flight attendants on their staff through voluntary buyouts during the pandemic.
“It’s still a bit of a glamorous stance,” Muccio said.
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