Ground handling sector fights for its survival as more than half of airport-based workers are out of work

26 Jan 2021

The European ground handling sector has been facing incredible difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. A year on since the virus was detected in Europe for the first time, only around 40 per cent of European based ground staff are believed to be at work. The ETF calls for immediate financial support to the airports and ground handling service providers in Europe to protect air safety and the workers’ health and safety and wellbeing together with the necessary retention of their jobs and salaries. 

 Based on a survey among members, the ETF estimates that 58,5 per cent of ground handling workers are out of work. Approximately 23 per cent of the European airport-based workforce has been laid off while 35,5 per cent of the European airport-based workforce is currently on furlough and other short-time work schemes.

European aviation needs an EU-wide plan to protect the aviation ecosystem, including ground handling workers and airport infrastructure. Despite the pleas from all stakeholders active in the sub-sector, the ground handling service providers and their workforce have mainly been left out of state aid packages, fighting for survival without support. The results of this approach being applied across the EU are alarming.

Today’s ground handling job losses will turn into a suffering industry tomorrow. Travel demand will likely return rapidly, and the ground handling sector may not be able to cope without available, skilled and trained staff, which are an essential part of the aviation infrastructure,” said Eoin Coates, ETF Head of Aviation.

The ETF calls on national governments and the European institutions to provide financial help conditional on protecting jobs to the airports and ground handling service providers. Leaving the sector to fight this battle alone without any resources will be detrimental to the aviation industry but also air safety, and the workers’ health and safety and wellbeing. Member States must immediately draw up plans for recovery and resiliency of the ground handling sector in the EU.

A more detailed analysis of long-term consequences is available in an ETF statement here.

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