British Airways is offering cabin crew up to £225 per day in overtime payments to work on their rest days over the busy Christmas and New Year travel periods. The airline is struggling with Omicron-induced staffing woes and is trying to persuade crew who aren’t sick to pick up additional trips to head off a possible wave of cancellations.
On Christmas Eve, the UK reported 122,186 new COVID-19 infections which is a new all-time record for the country. Despite a reduced isolation period for positive cases, the UK is facing the threat of major staff shortages over the coming weeks as literally millions of people are forced to lock themselves inside their own homes.
Issues first emerged at British Airways last weekend when the Heathrow-based airline started struggling to find enough crew to operate flights on Saturday morning. The problems escalated on Sunday as baggage handlers and ground workers were also sent into isolation.
Passengers say they were sent home from the airport without their luggage because there simply wasn’t anyone available to unload bags from arriving aircraft. At one point, more than 2,000 cases were stacked up and awaiting sorting, although some of those problems have now been resolved.
With even more crew expected to go sick in the coming days, British Airways is offering senior crewmembers £225 per day in overtime to work on their days off in addition to the usual allowances they would earn. Most other cabin crew could earn £150 per day in overtime payments.
In the United States, American Airlines has been able to avoid any staffing issues by introducing an incentive programme over the holiday period. In contrast, Delta and United Airlines have been forced to cancel more than 200 flights between them on Christmas Eve because of staff shortages.
Both airlines admitted that the staffing shortfall was primarily down to high sickness levels which is being driven by the Omicron surge.
Similar staffing woes are being felt at Lufthansa and SAS, while Etihad Airways took the controversial decision to puts its cabin crew into lockdown for 10-days in an attempt to prevent too many more staff from getting sick with COVID-19.
Etihad Airways told staff its entire operation was at risk because so many crewmembers were getting infected. The Abu Dhabi-based airline reserved the right to extend the lockdown if the current stay at home rules fail to curb the current wave of infection.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.