Safety Tips for Airline Staff in Peak Travel Seasons
After years of travel being inaccessible, vacationers are making up for lost time. Airports are consistently swarmed with travelers, and it’s increasingly rare to find an empty seat on the plane.
Airlines are usually able to cope with the massive numbers of passengers flying each day. But with prolific staff shortages spanning throughout the industry this summer, it’s proving to be far more of a challenge.
The priority in these pressing times must be the welfare of the pilots and airline staff that are on the front lines with passengers. Ensuring the safety and mental wellbeing of these employees is crucial all year round, but especially with travel at record-high rates and crews stretched thin.
But what exactly can we do to care for the well-being of our airline workers? To begin with, we need to understand the risks associated with the job during the peak travel season.
What are the risks to air crews during peak travel season?
Here are some of the more common risks that affect pilots and other airline staff during busier periods in the travel industry.
As with any industry, when business starts to pick up, employees often work longer hours. While there are legal regulations that limit the number of hours these workers can be on the clock, staff-strapped airlines are working their employees as much as they can get away with.
It goes without saying, a tired pilot is not one you want to take to the sky.
With most industries, if you’re feeling tired, you just drink some coffee and do your best to get through the day. But this cannot safely be the case for pilots and flight attendants. These professionals are responsible for the safety of hundreds of passengers, so coming into work feeling tired or run down just isn’t an option.
If pilots aren’t properly rested, Federal Aviation Administration regulations stipulate that they must contact and notify management that they’re not fit to fly. In recent times, there’s been a 300% increase in pilot fatigue calls. In a recent survey of pilots, a shocking 78.6% reported “severe or very high fatigue.”
This only adds to the airline staff shortage problem, leading to less available pilots, which then applies more pressure to those who are available — perpetuating the cycle of fatigued workers.
Lack of accommodation
Since pilots and airline staff often end their days far from home, it’s the airlines’ responsibility to set them up with a comfortable place to rest and recharge wherever they’re stopping over.
Unfortunately, the standard of accommodation can be unpredictable — and worst of all, sometimes airline staff are left without a place to stay.
At Southwest Airlines, pilots have said that when they land at their destination, it’s “not uncommon” to discover that hotels are unavailable, meaning they have no accommodation to sleep in.
American Airlines pilots blame many of the operational issues during peak travel season on problematic hotels that have been booked for their layovers. The Allied Pilots Association (APA) — representing more than 15,000 pilots with American Airlines — previously sent a memo to its members to raise the issue of unsuitable lodging and how it must be improved in the interest of pilot and passenger safety.
Mental health concerns
Dealing with the public comes with new challenges these days. Those in customer-facing roles often wind up with unenviable jobs of enforcing pandemic-related restrictions and sometimes sharing unwelcome news when things don’t go as planned.
This is particularly exacerbated for anyone who works in the travel industry. Tension can be high when tired travelers just want to get home after a long day of layovers. With flights frequently being delayed or canceled outright, airline staff must often bear the brunt of their passengers’ frustrations.
Being occasionally subjected to unruly or hostile behavior can weigh on anyone, and lead to burnout and other job-related mental health struggles. 58% of cabin crew workers reported experiencing “moderate depression” in 2020.
How to improve safety for your airline crew
Now that we know what risks these workers are exposed to, we can look into improving pilot and airline staff safety.
Providing reliable accommodation
As you’ve seen, accommodation can be a strong point of contention for pilots. Not only does the hotel need to be ready and available for them as soon as they land, it needs to be comfortable and conducive to a great night’s rest.
Comfortable beds, quiet surroundings, clean rooms and available amenities are all the bare minimum for pilots to have a restful stopover.
Well-being and mental health support
When airline staff are experiencing poor mental health, they need the option to access resources and support from their employers.
Research conducted on more than 1,000 pilots worldwide found that 18% had moderate depression and 80% had moderate burnout. The caveat — more than three-quarters of the respondents said they would not disclose such issues to employers. If pilots don’t feel comfortable proactively talking to their management, employers need to ensure they’re the ones reaching out to open communication channels and check in on their workforce.
Training up some of your crew as mental health first aiders is a good approach to take.
They’ll be able to not only recognize signs of poor mental health amongst their co-workers, but they’ll also have the skills and knowledge to guide them to the help that’s available to them.
Airlines have a duty of care for their staff — given the risks that the lack of overnight accommodation presents for pilots, airlines should know where all of their staff are staying.
By integrating a complete system for finding, booking, and rating overnight accommodation, employers can not only have control over the lodging process, but they can also empower staff members with a plan B. By enabling pilots to book their own rooms when plans change — a flight is canceled or rerouted — airlines can ensure their staff is taken care of. Travel managers will still have visibility into where their pilots are staying, even if they do make a last-minute change.
With a solution like Hotel Engine, you can see which employees are staying where and on which dates from a single dashboard — streamlining the entire process.
Never again allow your business or staff wellbeing to be affected when accommodation falls through. With the Hotel Engine app, pilots and airline staff can book emergency accommodation last minute, with rated and trusted lodging.
Streamline your staff lodging
Hotel Engine takes the hassle out of airline staff accommodation. With access to over 700,000 properties worldwide, your employees will never be left in the lurch again.
Access up to 60% savings on lodging and bank loyalty points to unlock even more rewards for booking your stays.
With simple and flexible billing and access to support around the clock, booking accommodation for your airline staff has never been this easy.
Erin Sayer is the Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days keeping a pulse on growth trends, and finding and activating new and unique ways to grow businesses. When she’s not doing ‘all the growth things’, Erin loves spending time on the water or up in the mountains with her 2 favorite Australian Shepherds. She is also a self-proclaimed book nerd and true crime junkie.