Easter travel threatened as airports reel under staff shortages

“⁣We’re seeing that there’s a high level of absenteeism, and that’s because there is the isolation rules related to COVID-19, both in close contacts and people that have COVID,”⁣ Mr Joyce said.

There were 57,859 cases reported quality on Friday and there are 2818 COVID-19 patients in hospital.

The chief executive of Sydney Airport, Geoff Culbert, apologised to passengers who were delayed this week and described the situation as a “⁣perfect storm”⁣.

“⁣Traffic numbers are picking up, travelers are inexperienced after two years of not traveling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport,” said Mr Culbert.

“⁣We encourage everyone to get to the airport early and thank everyone for being patient as the industry gets back on its feet.”⁣

Friday was the busiest day at Melbourne Airport in more than two years, and many travelers experienced long delays at check-in, security, and the cab ranks.

A spokesman for Melbourne Airport said staff shortages and several off-schedule arrivals caused lengthy delays for some travelers retrieving their baggage this week.

‘We’d ask for patience’

“⁣Like many other industries recovering from the impact of the pandemic, Melbourne Airport’s ground handlers, who take care of loading and unloading baggage, are still trying to rebuild their workforce,”⁣ the spokesman said.

“⁣When combined with staff needing to isolate, that can present some operational challenges during busy periods, so we’d ask for patience as the teams work to get passengers and their bags where they need to be.”⁣

Certis Security, which provides staff for Sydney Airport, is struggling with labor shortages as well as the impact of the close-contact isolation rules on its workforce. It said it was still rebuilding its workforce after not needing them for two years.

“With visitors and travelers returning in large volumes, our focus is on building up our team to ensure smooth check-in and security operations in the most efficient manner,” said a spokesman for Certis.

A spokesman for Sydney Airport said that adding airport workers to the list of occupations exempt from self-isolation requirements would help solve the staffing problems.

Essential workers can still go to work if they are a close contact with someone with COVID-19, provided they keep testing negative on rapid tests.

Mr Joyce said a “Combination of things”⁣ was responsible for the delays, which are occurring globally.

“This is not unusual around the globe, in fact, it actually has so far been handled a lot better here,” he said.

UK airlines such as EasyJet have canceled large numbers of flights this week, and US airlines did the same over the Christmas break when their COVID-19 case numbers were peaking.

“⁣We’re avoid canceling flights or very minimum, and we’re getting people to their destination,”⁣ he said.

“⁣It may be delayed, but we are getting them there, and that’s what we believe will happen over Easter. But obviously, we need people’s assistance and help.”

Virgin’s plea

Virgin is expecting its busiest travel period since before COVID-19, with tens of thousands of customers booked on flights.

It is also urging advisors to leave at least two hours earlier to get through the airport queues for domestic flights and to use online check-ins.

“⁣Australia’s major airports have warned that the sudden increase in travelers and workforce challenges related to the pandemic will likely lead to travelers experiencing longer than usual queues to access departure terminals over the Easter school holiday period,” said a spokesperson for the airline.

She said Virgin was “⁣gearing up”⁣ for the busy holiday period but travelers needed to show patience with its team, which was working “⁣around the clock”⁣.

A spokesman for United Workers Union said airport security contractors had been caught short, in part because demand had unexpectedly increased after a wave of redundancies during the pandemic.

The Transport Workers Union also blamed the shortages on Qantas’ decision to outsource its ground operations and slammed the airline’s push to relax isolation rules for aviation workers.

“⁣Workers need isolation rules to stay, even if that is inconvenient to Mr Joyce,”⁣ said Michael Kaine, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union.

“⁣What Mr Joyce misleadingly callseeism is actually sick leave, and every Australian worker is entitled to that.”⁣

The Australian Services Union said Qantas had cut customer service jobs and sent call center work offshore, leading to customer wait times stretching to four to five hours this week and this was expected to blow out further.

ASU assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske said the union had been in discussions with Qantas and staff were “⁣exhausted and working beyond breaking point”⁣.

“⁣These problems started with Qantas offshoring local jobs and cutting in-airport customer service last year under the cover of the pandemic,”⁣ Ms Gaske said.

“That puts huge extra pressure on call centers and Qantas didn’t add any new call center staff.

“⁣Now that we’re seeing the industry recover, and customers return to Qantas, they must repay Australian taxpayers and employ local staff.”⁣

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