Omicron, unruly passengers deter U.S. airline staff from holiday overtime

Dec 30 (Reuters) – U.S. airline cabin crew, pilots and support staff are reluctant to work overtime during the holiday travel season despite being lured with hefty financial incentives because of the growing fear of contracting COVID-19 and the prospect of dealing with unruly passengers, three airline unions said.

That reluctance, combined with bad weather and tight staffing at pandemic-battered airlines, led to massive flight cancellations over the past week, the unions said. The issues will likely result in more strain in the weeks ahead as the spread of the Omicron variant accelerates.

“We have negotiated holiday incentives to help with operational challenges, but there’s only so far you can stretch people,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), representing 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, said in a statement.

In the months leading up to the holidays, airlines were wooing employees to ensure solid staffing, after furloughing or laying off thousands over the last 18 months as the pandemic crippled the industry. read more

The airline sector is also feeling added pressure as employment numbers still trail pre-pandemic levels, but the total hours worked by fewer staff has almost fully rebounded.

Source: Reuters