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War for talent plagues the travel industry!

Over 900 Indigo flights delayed on the July 2nd weekend as the crew went for a job interview’, according to sources, screamed the headline in a prominent newspaper. While the reasons may be anecdotal, the issue at hand is the scramble for talent across the aviation and travel industry.

Globally, flights have been cancelled and many rescheduled as airlines and airport operators are finding it difficult to hire personnel to service the return of passengers post Covid-19.

In Europe and USA, the shortage of baggage loaders across airports has led to a huge pile-up of luggage at airports and social media was flooded with images of unclaimed baggage at various airports. The situation is so dire that airlines across the developed world are offering a 50 per cent hike in wages for employees and wooing potential employees with sweetened salary packages.

According to a Reuters report, Fabio Gamba, Director of the Airport Services Association, a trade group for the independent ground and air cargo handling industry, estimated that in 2019 there were roughly 220,000 to 240,000 people in ground handling in Europe. Around 2020, there were fewer than 100,000, as ground handlers sought more stable jobs in other industries with better pay and working conditions.

In India, the situation may not be that dire, but there is a genuine shortage of skilled personnel in the travel industry.

Indian aviation is also facing similar challenges. When the lockdown was announced in 2020, airlines had to let go of employees as aircraft were parked and lying idle. The ground staff and cabin crew took a hit and employees were laid off. What has changed for India is the sale of Air India to the Tata group, the revival of Jet Airways and the launch of Akasa Air. This has led to an increase in demand for trained airline personnel, be it ground staff or cabin crew. Pilots are also back in demand after the Covid lull.

For quite some time there have been rumblings among airline staff as they felt short-changed, and their salaries were stagnant with no scope for growth. This has changed with these new developments.

The next few months will see a fierce hunt for talent as the three carriers go on an expansion spree and would like to hire the best.

A similar situation is playing out in the travel industry. During the lockdown, there were mass layoffs and companies sacked staff indiscriminately. Over 60 per cent of the staff found suitable employment in other fields over the course of the last 30 months and they are not keen to return as they feel that life in the travel industry is uncertain.

The industry will now have to invest to get the next set of personnel trained to spearhead the travel industry.

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