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Airports need to address their unpopularity as a workplace if they’re to resolve a labor crunch that’s spawned a summer of travel chaos, the world’s biggest ground-handling firm said.
While pay hikes may narrow the staffing gap, they won’t resolve deep-seated issues in attracting new recruits, Tarek Sultan, vice chairman of Agility Public Warehousing Co., said Friday after the Gulf firm completed the purchase of John Menzies Plc, which provides handling at hubs including London Heathrow.
“It’s really hard to hire people in this day and age after Covid and we’re really trying to figure out why,” Sultan said on Bloomberg Television. “Nobody has a 100% clear answer. We have to be competitive with our wages, but we also have to look at other ways to improve retention and make this industry a more attractive place to work.”
Heathrow last week blamed airlines and their ground handlers for the turmoil that’s been afflicting European travel for months as demand rebounds from the pandemic. Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said they’ve been too slow to recruit and that handlers including Menzies are in some cases not paying enough to compete with firms like Amazon.com Inc. as they seek staff.
Sultan said that while Kuwait-based Agility understands that it must invest to beef up the workforce, costs would need to be passed on and the airline industry right now is “not the ideal place to be looking to increase prices to customers.” Expenses would have to be offset “in a very measured way.”
He said the travel situation should improve over the next couple of quarters, and that in future the aviation industry as a whole needs to do better in anticipating demand and coordinating step changes in operations.
Read more: U.K. Airport Handler Menzies Accepts $750 Million Kuwaiti Bid
Edinburgh-based Menzies said Friday that its London Stock Exchange listing was canceled as of 7 a.m. after Agility completed the 571 million-pound ($694 million) takeover.
Agility’s National Aviation Services will take on the name and identity of the Scottish firm, which traces its origins back almost 190 years and provides ground handling, aircraft fueling and cargo services at more than 200 locations in about 40 countries.
NAS operates at about 55 airports across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
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