Airlines Are Asking Employees to Volunteer for Airport Shifts

This summer travel season is going to be a really busy one

Atlanta SkyClub

Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

As pent-up travelers are ready to take the skies en masse, airlines are bracing for an extraordinarily busy summer season. While that might be a good thing for the industry at large, it might not be so wonderful for airline employees.

American Airlines has become the latest airline to ask its corporate employees to volunteer for unpaid shifts in customer-facing airport positions. The news was reported in a tweet by "JonNYC" of an internal memo that was confirmed by the company.

Last month, Delta asked its salaried employees to volunteer for shifts in its SkyClubs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to bus tables and restock buffets, citing a shortage of 115 contractors.

American's program will focus on airport operations like wayfinding (i.e., helping travelers navigate the airport) and wheelchair return at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Employees who volunteer are asked to take at least three six-hour shifts between June and mid-August.

While the shifts are technically unpaid, hourly employees can count those volunteer hours towards their weekly total. In addition, salaried employees can take time away from their office responsibilities if their schedule allows.

The hospitality industry at large has been facing staffing issues in the wake of the pandemic, reportedly due to some combination of low wages, unsafe working conditions, a lack of benefits, and extended unemployment policies.

But American Airlines says it doesn't have a staffing problem, even though it's down nearly 30,000 employees since the start of the pandemic.

"As we continue to welcome back more customers, it's critical that we deliver a reliable operation," American Airlines wrote in the memo. "And while our frontline operational teams have this part covered, there are ways those of us in support roles can provide even more support during the busy summer months, including helping customers feel comfortable as they return after many months away from traveling."

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  1. BDO. "Staffing in the Wake of Covid-19: How Much Has Changed?" March 16, 2021