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The ‘Great Resignation’ and how it affects the aviation ecosystem

Thomas Romig, Vice President, Safety, Security, and Operations at ACI World, outlines the devastating effect the pandemic has had on aviation’s workforce and ways to tackle the issue.

As the industry emerges out of the pandemic and demand returns, many aviation stakeholders have been confronted with capacity issues induced by staffing levels. The uneven and sometimes sudden growth in demand has created significant challenges for certain stakeholders, generating flight delays and cancellations, extended wait times at airport touch points, and overall, a diminished passenger experience as operators struggle to bring staff back in sufficient numbers.

The aviation ecosystem is strongly reliant on the availability of a large workforce of well-trained and competent professionals to cater to the diverse roles found across the aviation system. This diverse workforce ensures the delivery of a multitude of services required to make the aviation system function on a day-to-day basis across all regions of the world. Whether they are highly skilled air traffic controllers, pilots, airport security personnel or ground handling staff, they are all needed to ensure the delivery of their respective services and keep the aviation ecosystem running.

The direct impact of a strong, vibrant, and thriving aviation system on the economic wellbeing and sustainability of these communities is immense. On a global level, according to the ATAG Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders 2020 report, aviation accounts directly for 11.3 million jobs, many of which have a direct impact on ensuring safe and efficient operations across the aviation ecosystem. The aviation system indirectly supports over 18 million other jobs through the air transport industry’s purchase of goods and services. Approximately 60 per cent of all aviation employment takes place at airports with many aviation personnel integrated into the fibre of the communities that surround airports.

Exacerbated impacts to a pre‑existing challenge

Balancing demand and capacity have been a significant challenge for the aviation industry for a long time. Capacity has often been limited by physical assets, such as the number of aircraft, runways, parking stands, check-in desks, etc. available, or sometimes due to operational limitations, such as additional security measures, airspace constraints, or weather limitations. The availability of staff in sufficient numbers to meet demand has also generated disruptions at times, such as ATC delays, flight cancellations or extended waiting times. However, the impact of the current situation has been somewhat exceptional with wide-ranging impacts in many regions.

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