U.S. airlines responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with decisions about staffing that continue misguided tensions with workers who serve airline travelers. Despite receiving billions of dollars in federal assistance to help protect jobs and keep our nation’s aviation system ready, airlines cut direct employment and remained silent about the large contracted workforce they created and grew since September 11, 2001.
As airlines benefited from pent up desire to reconnect with loved ones, they frustrated those customers with cancelled flights—driving service disruptions. Distracting from their own responsibility, airlines have attempted to divert blame for service problems to contracted service workers like wheelchair agents, cabin cleaners and baggage handlers, but in so doing they may be inadvertently shining a light on the highly fragmented, and deeply unequal, systems of employment for workers in the US aviation sector. This fragmented approach puts workers, passengers , communities—and investors— at risk.
Airlines can outsource employment, but not their responsibility to ensure fair compensation for essential airport workers, the truth is airlines have the ability—and the responsibility—to support high standards, along with stable and equitable employment. Failure to do so could impact airlines’ future profitability—and federal willingness to provide bailouts with minimal requirements.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States, the US airline industry is returning to higher levels of passenger travel. The prohibition on layoffs, created as a condition of the unprecedented level of federal aid given to airlines, is set to expire on September 30. What will this mean for airline employees and for the large and growing number of frontline airline-contracted airport workers? Will the apparent increase in outsourcing which occurred during the pandemic continue or accelerate? What do these changes mean for the stability and operational efficiency of major US airlines?
Read the full report here: http://airlineaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Not-Ready-for-Take-Off.pdf