The COVID Effect On Airport Staff

Dotan Sagi & Ben Griffin

Like many things in our lives, traveling and airport staffing & security have been heavily affected due to the COVID pandemic.

Look back and remember, when was the last time you had a smooth walkthrough from luggage check-in until getting in your seat? Or a not-so-long exit from the airport after landing?

What challenges need to be solved to improve the passenger travel experience and ensure the proper functioning of airports?

Which solutions are available for improving customer satisfaction, staffing issues, and training?

Learn that and more below.

A Deep Impact On Staffing & Training

The pandemic deeply impacted the aviation industry regarding efficiency layoffs caused by a significant decrease in air travel. Suddenly, airport staff in different departments had to work longer hours and have more responsibilities, covering for their laid-off colleagues.

Let’s take airport security as an example- security personnel was now required to cover larger areas with fewer resources, making it more difficult to identify and respond to potential security threats. a job requiring high alert mode, quick response time, incorporating different scenario protocols in an emergency, and many other duties.

Once health restrictions were lifted and air travel increased, airports were quickly inquired to replace the laid-off staff. This resulted in filling many job vacancies and the challenge of hiring and onboarding inexperienced staff, who have yet to receive comprehensive security training, making it difficult to fulfill their roles and responsibilities effectively.

Furthermore, the sudden need to hire made colleagues’,  trainers', and managers’ jobs even more difficult in terms of having many new hires to train and develop, affecting the quality of training and veteran staff’s day-to-day responsibilities.

New Hires and Client Satisfaction

Staffing reduction during the pandemic led to a few issues affecting passengers and airport staff. You could see it in airports like London Heathrow, where massive passenger queues were created due to a shortage of staff, as well as Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which had to cancel flights or divert them due to staff shortage.

These are merely two examples of issues that occurred due to a shortage in staff after health restrictions were lifted.

A few more examples are:

  • Staff fatigue: Existing staff had experienced increasing stress levels because they now had more responsibilities, more areas to cover, and sometimes longer shifts, resulting in burnout, decreased satisfaction, and, in some cases, a higher risk of absenteeism.
  • Decreased customer satisfaction: Staff shortage caused longer wait times for passengers. You could feel it, especially at security and check-in desks.  This caused a decline in overall customer satisfaction and customer experience.
  • Security and safety efficiency -  With security personnel having more responsibilities and covering larger areas, identifying and responding to threats was much more difficult. A thing that could have affected both staff and passengers.

Due to ongoing staffing issues, there has been a significant increase in travel restrictions and delays, creating a more challenging and less efficient experience for air passengers. As a result, longer wait times and decreased security measures have led to a decline in public confidence in air travel, causing many individuals to avoid flying altogether. This decrease in passenger traffic has resulted in substantial financial losses for airlines and airport operators, further compounding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry.

Therefore, it is crucial to address the staffing issues at airports to improve the travel experience for passengers, restore confidence in air travel, and ensure the overall safety and security of airports.

The importance of Comprehensive Security Training

The aviation industry faces significant challenges in hiring and training new staff, especially regarding security. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many airport employees have been laid off, leaving a lot of inexperienced new hires without proper security training. This creates a lot of stress for new and existing staff and poses a risk to airport security.

With adequate security training, new staff might know how to identify and respond to potential security threats, putting passengers and airport staff in danger. It can also lead to increased stress and burnout, negatively impacting job satisfaction.

That's why it's important for all airport staff, including new hires, to receive comprehensive and up-to-date security training. This will help them perform their security responsibilities effectively and respond quickly to security threats. It will also improve the overall safety and security of the airport, making it a more enjoyable and reassuring experience for passengers.

In addition to improving airport security, comprehensive security training for all airport staff, new and existing, can help reduce wait times at security checkpoints and check-in desks. This will create a more efficient and streamlined airport experience, boosting air travel confidence and helping keep the aviation industry financially stable.

In conclusion, investing in proper security and risk-based training programs for all airport staff is essential for enhancing airport security and passenger travel experience. Airport operators must prioritize providing security training so that all staff is equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their duties effectively and contribute to a safe and secure airport environment.


According to the ACI EUROPE Airport Traffic Forecast 2023, while airports are not yet back to pre-COVID passenger levels, footfall will steadily increase this summer. However, unresolved staffing issues make ensuring overall airport security and safety challenging, particularly with new hires who need more comprehensive security training. To address these challenges, increased funding for security training programs, partnerships with security experts, and increased staffing levels are recommended. By addressing these issues, airport operators can improve passenger travel experiences, restore confidence in air travel, and ensure the overall security and safety of the airport, contributing to the aviation industry's success.

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