In today’s world, there is a shortage of workers everywhere. And we’re used to it. But when staff shortages hit airlines, it comes as a shock to many. A lack of pilots and flight attendants, a lack of baggage handlers. Every day there are hundreds of suitcases that don’t reach their final destination.
The captain apologizes to passengers for the delay because of the shortage of staff. Everybody is late, but the passengers on the delayed flights are happy – they are better off than those whose flights have been cancelled.
So, what has happened? Airlines and airports are a special sector of the economy, with special demands on employees. Employees cannot be recruited quickly. Everyone has to go through security checks, and pilots’ licenses expire if they do not fly for a while. Planes also become unfit to carry passengers if they do not operate.
This is why some carriers have been flying empty planes with crews, to help them get back into the swing of things after the pandemic. And the rhythm of post-pandemic travelers, hungry for being on the move, is intense.
Today, in the airports, we see the havoc that understaffing might soon cause around the world. When one person is missing in a job, some fine others in the team have to carry the load. They become overworked and go on strike.
Although air transport is a unique sector, the shortage of workers here mirrors what is happening throughout the economy. Shortages are also growing on the ground in companies. Longer waiting times for goods or services are becoming routine.
The reasons behind it all are not only related to the pandemic. In response to the pandemic, central banks have started printing money on a massive scale. Money was being doled out to keep people at home and to stimulate demand and consumption without reducing it. Printing money was a quick matter, as was the stimulation of the demand. But, the authorities can’t print people. The shortage of workers is a by-product of the monetary policy.
It is therefore not surprising that airlines are not only short of staff but also short of planes. There is a shortage of cars on the ground and delays in the delivery of essential goods. The shortage of workers is holding the economy back. And if the situation does not change, we may soon have to skip our dream holiday, and there will be no one to administer vaccines, fix computers, and bake us our daily bread.