Sydney Airport has announced it is on the lookout for thousands of additional workers across multiple facets of its operations, in anticipation of strong travel demand during the July school holidays.
It comes after the airport faced significant scrutiny in April, after an influx in passengers, combined with staff shortages, resulted in hours-long queues at airports, increased cancellations, and passengers missing flights.
The airport revealed on Wednesday that over 5,000 jobs are currently vacant across 800 different organisations within the airport, including retail, hospitality, cleaning, security, and airport ground handler positions.
In order to aid potential employees into roles with over 40 employers within the airport, Sydney Airport said it will host a jobs fair on Thursday, 16 June, from 10am to 4pm on level 3 of its T1 International Terminal. Job applications will be taken on the spot.
“Fifteen thousand jobs were lost at the airport during the pandemic and even though everyone started recruiting heavily when borders looked like opening, we’ve still got 5,000 roles to fill,” said Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert.
“Our security contractor and ground handlers have been advertising jobs since December and have brought 500 staff on board since the start of the year, but they have another 1,200 roles to go which is incredibly challenging in this market.”
Despite this, the airport is continuing to advise passengers planning to travel during the July peak school holiday season to arrive at the airport at two hours prior to domestic flight, and three hours ahead of international departures.
“In the lead up to the holidays it will be busy, but we are doing everything we can to make sure people get away on time, including bringing people forward through the queues according to flight priority,” Culbert said.
“Labour shortages are hitting every sector in the economy, and we want to thank everyone who is travelling during this period for their patience as we rebuild the sector.”
It comes after it was revealed that domestic flight delays in April were the worst since records began – with almost 40 per cent of arrivals and departures not on time, due to operational chaos during the busy Easter period.
The delays during the holidays attracted huge national media attention, with airports around the country seeing enormous snaking lines at check-in, bag drop and security.
At the same time, Sydney Airport was forced to cancel dozens of flights in the days leading up to Easter.
The chaos saw passengers grow increasingly frustrated, due to missed and cancelled flights and additional stress after two years without the ability to travel.
Both Sydney Airport and Qantas blamed the extensive wait times, in part, on travellers themselves, however, many passengers said that there was a visible staffing issue that saw security lanes and check-in desks closed and non-operational.
As reports first emerged of holiday-induced chaos in Sydney, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce blamed delays on “not match fit” travellers.
“I went through the airports on Wednesday and people forget they need to take out their laptops, they have to take out their aerosols … so that is taking longer to get through the [security] queue,” he said.
He added COVID close-contact rules were causing “high level of absenteeism” of up to 18 per cent, however NSW Health later eased close contact rules for aviation workers, allowing them to return to work with a mask if they show no symptoms and test negative to COVID, even if someone in their household has tested positive.
It followed similar comments made by Culbert, who blamed a “perfect storm” of COVID isolation, holiday demand and rusty travellers for the increasing wait times.
“We would like to apologise to passengers who are being inconvenienced and would like to thank people who are getting to the airport early, wearing their masks and making sure they are prepared for their check-in and security processes,” he said at the time.
“Traffic numbers are picking up, travellers are inexperienced after two years of not travelling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport.
“We encourage everyone to get to the airport early and we ask everyone to be patient as the industry gets back on its feet.”