Aviation labour shortage will remain a challenge for months, says Qatar Airways chief

Airline, however, has been 'inundated' with job requests, receiving 20,000 applications for 900 pilot positions

FILE PHOTO Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker gestures as he tours the exhibition stand of the company at the International Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, March 9, 2016.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
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The labour shortage facing the global aviation industry will remain an issue for some months, the group chief executive of Qatar Airways said, but in contrast, the airline itself is “inundated” with job applications.

The carrier received 20,000 applications in response to its call for 900 additional pilots as part of its growth plan, chief executive Akbar Al Baker said in Doha on Monday.

It also attracted 25,000 prospective candidates to an open day it held to hire cabin crew.

“You can see the interest we still are generating as an airline,” he said.

Mr Al Baker pointed to a shift in labour trends after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has spurred more flexible work options.

“I do realise that in other regions of the world there is a shortage, because people got into the bad habit of working from home and that has also given them the feel that jobs are available where they can work remotely, so they don't need to go to an industry that needs hands-on people,” Mr Al Baker said.

“This challenge will stay with the industry for some time to come and let us see what happens in a few months' time.”

The recent staff shortages at airlines and airports led to severe disruptions at some major travel centres, resulting in cancelled flights and long security queues.

After waves of lay-offs at the peak of the pandemic, rehiring staff fast enough to meet recovering demand has become a major challenge for the industry.

Mr Al Baker also said that the industry's pledge to achieve net zero by 2050, which was set in October 2021, will be “challenging”.

A collaborative effort is needed with other players such as oil companies and engine-makers to meet those targets, he said.

Sustainable aviation fuel is currently both expensive and in short supply, he said.

“We can put all the targets we want and the dates to achieve those targets, but [we can't achieve much] if there is no supply available. We fly aeroplanes — we don't make engines, we don't produce fuel, so it is a collective effort to meet those targets."

The airline chief also said he is open to having a dialogue with Airbus on the ongoing dispute about surface degradation issues on the A350 aircraft, provided there was goodwill from both sides.

"I always have goodwill but the goodwill has to be from everybody, not only from me," Mr Al Baker said at a CEO insights panel at the Iata annual general meeting in Doha.

Qatar Airways is locked in a court case battle with Airbus over surface damage on its A350 wide-body jets, with Airbus hitting back by scrapping the airline's order for A320 Neo narrowbodies.

"You have an aircraft manufacturer that today has the market power that it's using to get its way and trying to send a message to others in the industry that either you comply with what we tell you or we will do something else," he said.

"This is a very dangerous precedent that is now happening."

Updated: June 20, 2022, 3:37 PM