Airlines offering bonuses of over $1,000 to poach cabin crew in scramble for summer staff

U.K. airline EasyJet is offering a £1,000 ($1,225) bonus for new and existing cabin crew members as the industry scrambles to recruit talent ahead of the peak summer vacation season.

A spokesperson for the company said the “recognition payments” would be distributed at the end of the summer, during which demand was expected to be near pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak.

British Airways also announced recently that it would be giving £1,000 bonuses to new employees who start before July, paid in two instalments over six months.

Airlines and airports are competing to recruit employees from a tight labor market, after many of them laid workers off at the height of the pandemic.

EasyJet said in 2020 that it would have to cut around 30% of its workforce, while British Airways cut around 10,000 jobs before announcing it would rehire 6,000 workers.

BA, which has struggled to keep up with the loosening of travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, recently announced a slew of cuts to its flight routes that will remain in place for the summer.

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for Danish airline SAS told Fortune on Monday that the aviation industry was facing a lot of challenges as it experienced “a massive ramp-up after the pandemic.”

“We are not in a position to offer attraction bonuses, however we believe the industry will recover after the pandemic and regain its attraction as an exciting and innovative base for new recruits,” they said. “SAS offers attractive jobs based on Scandinavian laws, terms and working conditions.”

Meanwhile, Heathrow and Manchester Airports – two of the U.K.’s busiest aviation hubs – both told Fortune on Monday that they were currently conducting massive recruitment drives.

Heathrow said it was looking to recruit 1,000 security officers in the coming months, while its entire airport campus was looking to fill around 12,000 roles by the summer.

Understaffing problems

As demand for travel picks up and pandemic-era restrictions are lifted, Europe’s aviation industry has struggled to cope with suddenly overwhelming passenger numbers.

The U.K.’s industry in particular is facing additional recruitment hurdles, including a pandemic-induced  backlog that is slowing down the processing of government background checks, as well as the shrinking of the cabin crew recruitment pool post-Brexit.

Recent weeks have seen passengers facing long lines and delays at understaffed British airports.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport asked airlines earlier this month to divert flights so that they would depart from Rotterdam, as the airport prepared for surging passenger numbers.

Yi Zhong, an equity research analyst at AlphaValue, told Fortune on Friday that while easyJet’s bonus scheme may help it gain new employees more quickly, other constraints could still weigh on its hiring process.

“Airlines and airports dismissed large numbers of employees during the pandemic and now they are willing to hire people back, but many workers definitively left the sector and there were also a number of early retirements,” she said.

“The vetting of new staff, de facto background checks for aviation security reasons, will take time. Also, Brexit limits the possibility of hiring staff from the EU to work in the U.K.”

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