Staff engagement - a key ingredient for an airports' success

Loss of qualified personnel due to covid-19

August 23, 2023

COVID-19 had a profound impact on the aviation industry, leading to a significant decline in air travel and causing financial strain on airlines and airports alike. Alongside the overall toll on the business, this also led to a massive exodus of employees, particularly at airports, with many leaving the industry for good.

Job insecurity, health concerns, burnout, remote work opportunities, and lower wages are just some of the potential factors that may have contributed to this decision. Therefore, it is crucial for airports to reinvent themselves as an employer and remind their staff why the aviation industry is a great place to work.

Deserted terminal at Munich Airport
In addition to abandoned terminals and the general strain on airport operations, the pandemic unfortunately also led to a massive exodus of employees. © Flughafen München GmbH
Airport staff explaining directions to passenger - both wearing masks.
Since the pandemic, employee expectations and priorities in choosing their employer and workplace have changed dramatically. © Flughafen München GmbH

Staffing challenges since the pandemic

Airports must address the complex and multifaceted impact of the pandemic on their staff to ensure they can attract and retain qualified people in the future. Job insecurity resulting from the pandemic led airport staff to leave for more stable employment opportunities, while concerns about health risks and burnout resulted in workforce resigning their positions. The developments over the past three years also accelerated the trend toward remote work and telecommuting, prompting some employees to depart for more flexible work-life balance options. Additionally, the pandemic may have led to lower wages or reduced working hours, forcing personal to seek a better-paying job.

Despite the lifting of most restrictions, many airports across the world still struggled to operate at full capacity last summer, due to a lack of skilled personnel. This highlights the importance for airports to take proactive measures to address these issues and ensure sufficient personnel to meet passenger demands while maintaining safe and efficient operations. By investing in staff engagement programs, airports can create a positive workplace culture, foster employee recognition and motivation, and encourage teamwork and collaboration. 

Staff engagement comes with many benefits

Munich Airport International (MAI) is a strong advocate of staff engagement initiatives to address workforce shortages, increase employee loyalty and attract new qualified personnel. This is key to airports for several reasons. Engaged employees tend to be more productive, efficient, and effective at their jobs, which ultimately leads to better customer service and an improved passenger experience. They are also more likely to take ownership of their work and commit to their employer's mission and goals, allowing for greater innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. Finally, staff engagement can help airports recruit and keep talent long-term, reducing turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new team members.

With good reason, Munich Airport refers to its employees as its airport family – because we look out for each other. This does not only mean a healthy work-life balance, career advancements and a fair salary. Munich Airport’s comprehensive staff engagement also includes e.g. brand awards, employee of the year awards, great social events, a wide variety of discounts on and off campus, a fitness studio with additional health programs, as well as regular town hall meetings with the senior leadership team to address any concerns directly. 

There is no doubt about it, the aviation industry is a fascinating place to work – but that alone is not enough. Airports must take responsibility, address the remaining concerns, and prove that they are a company worth working for. Contact us if you would like to find out more about Munich Airport’s 5-star staff engagement approach and how your airport can benefit from our experience.

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