So far this year, air travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with more than 2.1 million people passing through airport checkpoints daily, as many as during the same period in 2019, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) data. According to the TSA, airport traffic has already broken pandemic records on several days this May. This doesn’t just mean that airlines need pilots and crew; it also means that airports are short on staff – from air traffic controllers to service workers.
In May, United Airlines announced that it hired 7,000 new workers in the first four months of this year and plans to hit 15,000 new hires by year-end, matching the number it hired last year. By 2026, United projects adding 50,000 workers to a workforce of about 93,000 at the start of this year. At the beginning of 2023, Alaska Airlines announced plans to hire more than 3,500 new employees this year in a variety of roles and functions. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) plans to hire roughly 1,500 controllers this year and another 1,800 next year as it is catching up on pandemic-related training backlogs — a significant cause of the current staffing shortage. According to the National Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA), staffing levels are at a 30-year low, while two in 10 air traffic controller positions remain unfilled nationwide.
Because the range of open positions is so broad and specialized, recruiting employees in the airline and airport industry requires a targeted and multifaceted approach. Organizations can successfully attract and retain top talent by adopting innovative recruitment strategies, focusing on cultural fit and industry-specific skills, and prioritizing employee development and engagement.
Strategies for Recruiting Talent in the Airline and Airport Industry
The airline and airport industry is a dynamic and fast-paced sector requiring a highly skilled workforce to ensure smooth operations and exceptional customer experiences. With increasing demands and competition in the industry, recruiting top talent has become more critical than ever. Here, we will review some practical strategies to attract and retain the best talent in the airline and airport industry.
Establishing a solid and attractive employer brand is vital for recruiting talent in the airline and airport industry. Highlight your organization’s unique values, company culture, employee benefits, and commitment to employee growth and development. A compelling employer brand can differentiate your company from competitors, making it a preferred choice for potential candidates.
Showcasing Career Growth Opportunities
Emphasize the vast array of career growth opportunities available within the industry. From flight attendants to aviation engineers, the airline and airport sectors offer diverse job roles and paths for advancement. Demonstrating the potential for professional growth and development will attract ambitious individuals looking for a long-term and rewarding career. For example, we can look to the TSA with its “day in the life” video showcasing what it’s like to be a Transportation Security Officer (TSO).
Employee Referral Programs
Leverage the power of your current employees to bring in top talent. Implement employee referral programs that reward existing staff for referring qualified candidates. Existing employees can provide valuable insights into potential candidates’ suitability, ensuring a better fit for your organization.
Tailored Recruitment Events
Host specialized recruitment events and career fairs to engage with potential candidates interested in the airline and airport industry. These events offer a chance to directly showcase your company’s culture, values, and career opportunities to job seekers, creating a personal connection and building interest in your organization. The TSA stands out for holding many informational recruiting events annually at airports nationwide.
Utilizing Social Media and Online Platforms
Harness the reach of social media platforms and online job portals to advertise job openings and engage with potential candidates. Share compelling content about your organization, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and testimonials from current employees to create a sense of excitement and trust among job seekers.
Internship and Apprenticeship Programs
Establish internship and apprenticeship programs to attract young talent and provide hands-on experience in the industry. These initiatives allow you to identify potential future employees and cultivate a pool of skilled and enthusiastic individuals. Textron Aviation in Wichita employs about 150 high school students and recent graduates for six weeks in an internship program that gives them an early look at career possibilities.
Competitive Compensation and Benefits
Offer competitive compensation packages and attractive benefits to entice top talent. Consider industry-specific perks such as travel discounts for employees and their families, which can be a significant draw for potential candidates. Note that wages are the primary reason for strikes and picketing – for example, United Airlines pilots picket for higher pay before busy summer travel season: “Time for the company to step up” – CBS News.
Recruiting top talent in the airline and airport industry is a strategic imperative for any organization aiming to thrive in this competitive sector. By focusing on employer branding, career growth opportunities, employee referrals, tailored recruitment events, social media engagement, internship programs, and competitive compensation, you can create an appealing environment that attracts skilled professionals and fosters a committed and dedicated workforce. Embrace these practical strategies, and your airline or airport organization will be well-equipped to secure the best talent to soar to new heights of success.