Airlines have lost record number of employees due to the pandemic, but the biggest challenge for the industry is how they’ll attract, train, and keep talent for years to come.
At the start of the pandemic, many airlines chose to lay off the majority of their staff rather than place them on furlough. From flight attendants to aircraft mechanics, to ticket agents and bag handlers, the response by many airlines was a smart idea to address their bottom line. What the airline industry didn’t foresee was the major shortage of talent needed as the pandemic’s worst days waned. With vaccinations increasing and border restrictions easing, airlines had found themselves in a new kind of problem. The rise of “revenge travel” since mid-2021 saw an increase in airline ticket sales from consumers ready to board flights after two years of lockdown. More passengers mean more staff needed.
Simple solution: call back the staff we furloughed a few months back.
Not quite. Like revenge travel, the ongoing “Great Resignation” became a bit of a wake-up call for all workers to explore new opportunities. While the airplanes stayed grounded, furloughed airline staff took off in new roles whether it became choosing a new line of work that offered a remote environment, starting a business, learning a new skill, or just taking the time off to care for family. Couple that with a reduced number of flight attendants and an increasing number of pilots retiring in the US alone spells out the need for airlines to adapt to fill in these specific roles for the long run and not just as a temporary job as some have made it.
The forecast on the staff shortage is concerning but not totally grim. Some airline staff have since returned to regular work schedules according to a recent industry update by ICAO however airlines can’t bet on airline employee veterans to come back at the same rate as travelers entering their nearest airport.
While service industry jobs like airport and airline staff may not be the most glamorous and sought after, the airline industry is at an advantageous position to replan the pathway to developing the next workforce of pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, runway personnel, and everyone in between to keep planes in the sky.
Recruiting Should Focus on Developing Careers and Not Job Creation
Developing an interest is just the start of capturing a new pool of talent. In the US, academia and organized labor have taken note of the issue with Auburn University developing courses on aviation to fill soon-to-be more vacant airport staff while the Teamsters have started an aviation careers outreach program to garner interest in airplane mechanics & repair, logistics, and travel hospitality-related roles.
If you look on the careers section of any major carrier’s website be it Delta, Air France, or Singapore Airlines, you’ll likely find a long list of open positions from ramp agent to airline technician.
These may not be the most glamorous positions given the day-to-day duties but airlines need to rebrand and excite rookie personnel applying for these jobs with each job description, not only explaining the duties of what each role does but explaining the why in the value of working this job for this particular airline. Sure, benefits and perks (reduced airfare? Yes, please!) are nice but is there an opportunity for career growth for them? Can they learn new skills whether it’s related to their role or not? The airline should be as supportive of their team members in the same way they are with passengers from takeoff to landing.
Create a Dedicated Training Program for a Specific Role
Recently, Qatar Airways received over 20,000 applications for 700 airline pilot roles (captain and co-captain positions) With that many applicants you wouldn’t think there would be a shortage. CEO Akbar Al Baker stated the demand comes not from a general need for any pilot, but Qatar Airways’ stringent screening process for pilots with both qualified senior years of experience and stellar marks at an aviation academy. To add to the latter, it’s notorious how expensive it is to go through pilot training and that’s just to learn the basics of take-off
But there’s a faster way than to sift through 20,000 applicants. A suggestion would be to have airlines utilize their own specific pilot training academies to train them not only under IATA and FAA regulations but to standards that the airlines hold. American Airlines just recently created its own pilot development program called Cadet Academy to address the deficit.
But this goes beyond just addressing a pilot shortage. By having airlines branch out their learning and development departments to train candidates in specific roles they’re streamlining and expediting the time it takes to fill in a role. For example, many major airlines in East and Southeast Asia have role-specific training academies. Korean Air and Asiana both utilize a training department for only flight attendants, a unique operation in that they’re trained exclusively on situations related to Asia-Pacific routes.
Under the same umbrella, they have other respective departments responsible for training their own staff on specialty airline services including logistics & cargo maintenance, airline hangar management, and ticket services operations. While outsourcing may save time and money, it could spell disaster if an employee isn’t in tune with the company’s standards for quality. A lack of quality in training could mean higher job dissatisfaction among future employees and eventually higher turnover.
Develop Training Courses with Experienced Instructors Guiding the Classroom
With new staff comes the need for skilled instructors. Even better, have the instructor be a veteran employee with the airline to be an instructor leading the courses. With airline pilots retiring at a record pace, it’s pertinent that before these captains hang up their wings for good its recommended they lead the new line of pilots who will take over the cockpit.
It’s a proactive measure especially to avoid any reduced flight schedules or to continue the chaos that’s already unfolding. This past April, Southwest Airlines reducing pilot hiring as a result of an instructor shortage which then in turn reduced the number of flights. And if it makes things any worse, the same airlines will be competing against hungry cargo companies like Amazon and FedEx to meet the demands of eCommerce customers.
Execute an Employee Training Plan and Manage Course Schedules
Starting a comprehensive training plan for each specific role in the airline industry is a daunting project to take on for any carrier’s human resources team. Most airline HR teams and training departments utilize one internal CRM to manage most if not all of the new employee’s journey to full-time work – from recruiting and screening, to onboarding and initial training.
New employee training and employee skilling and reskilling, can be overwhelming to manage even at the mid-level manager level. With each airline expected to intake roughly 15,000 new personnel across all hubs and connecting airports, it’s paramount that they equip themselves with a manageable training plan for all employees from pilots to airline mechanics.
How to Execute an Airline Employee Training Plan? A Simple Breakdown:
Step 1: Gather a list of courses and modules your new fleet employees will need to take and ask:
- Given the role in your airline, what courses will the employee need to take? Is it just a single course or perhaps a module or series of courses?
- Can the instructor lead the course in person and in a classroom, or does it have the option to be taught over video with lesson plans and interactive collaboration? (ILT and vILT)
- For example, some ticketing agents can go through one comprehensive course to cover the basics of customer service at the counter while some airlines may require more robust training in ticket software such as Amadeus GDS or become familiar with OTA operations.
Step 2: Compile another list of experienced and qualified instructors for these courses then determine:
- Which instructors are available to train and lead the courses your new employees will be taking?
- Do they carry the right certifications from your airline or perhaps a larger governing body (i.e. IATA or FAA) to teach the course?
- Do they carry the necessary years of experience?
- Which courses will they cover?
- What’s their availability? Is the instructor’s schedule suited for part-time or can be a full-time endeavor?
Compare and match the two lists and see where everything lines up and you’re good to go.
Problem Solved! Right?
Again, not quite. When you add the total number of employees in your airline who need to take these courses, the availability of instructors, the resources needed to accomplish each training session, compliance and regulation approvals, and communicating everything above to everyone involved could prove to be daunting and impossible.
Manage Airline Employee Courses using a Training Management System
Instead of using a series of spreadsheets, HR and L&D teams should utilize a training resource management system (TRMS) to streamline their employee development programs. In a large organization such as an airline, it is virtually impossible to keep track of everything and everyone needed to deploy a successful training plan. You could bootstrap your training operations by taking advantage of your CRM in combination with spreadsheets but this will only prove to complicate schedules and resource allocation fast.
Here’s where we combine steps 1& 2. The integration of a TRMS into your airline’s training plans neatly organizes and filters databases and spreadsheets of resources, schedules, and instructors into one collocated space for your administrators to use.
A robust TRMS like Training Orchestra takes all those spreadsheets and allows you to easily read where your schedules, resources, and attendees line up. What’s even better is that the software integrates with your preferred learning management software (LMS) so you can easily deploy courses easily and without issues to your trainees.
Airline personnel have the most complex schedules to deal with given the volume of flight routes they deal with on a daily basis. Don’t make training and development another issue to navigate. If you’re an airline or aviation organization struggling to manage your instructors and training requirements, we can help!
Contact us today to find out more about how Training Orchestra can help you get the right instructors in the right places to minimize travel disruption and keep your customers happy.