Lack of airport staffing nationwide impacts travel in Birmingham

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Across the nation, travelers are facing flight cancelations as airlines and airports are working to hire more staff with this year’s increase in passengers.

At the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, passengers tell CBS 42 they were seeing the staffing issues at other airports, which can cause issues on this end, especially if they have connecting flights to their destinations.

Vonnita Snell has been traveling all throughout the pandemic.

“I’ve watched the lines grow, but they’re still doable,” Snell said. “It’s not real bad. Before it was like a ghost town not many people at all. Now there’s more people but it’s not a bad wait.”

Kyndall McCoy stood by baggage claim waiting to meet her long-distance boyfriend from the Netherlands for the first time on Monday.

“They were being very thorough and it took a very long time because of the amount of people they didn’t have working,” McCoy said.

Her boyfriend, Brian Abswoude, didn’t mind the longer check it took him through customs to enter America. He was more concerned about catching his connecting flight from Charlotte.

“It was a bit annoying that my first flight was delayed, but it was quite a stressing moment to catch the next flight on time, but I just made it,” Abswoude said.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International spokesperson Candace O’Neil said it’s at 76% of normal passenger traffic it saw before the pandemic. Most people are traveling for leisure, not business.

“There are certain times of day where there are more flights taking off at one time so, during those peak flight times and peak travel times, we definitely encourage travelers to make sure that they are there 90 minutes early,” O’Neil said. “It’s certainly a welcomed sight to see the terminals full of people once again.”

A hiring event last month helped to fill vacancies from the pandemic here. But that’s not the case everywhere else.

CBS 42’s Art Franklin witnessed his co-pilot loading jetway baggage on a conveyer belt – a flight attendant telling him the pilot and co-pilot had to help due to a shortage of ground crews on his plane back to Birmingham from Detroit this past weekend.

“We’ll be ready at the Birmingham Airport,” O’Neil said. “We’re going to make sure that we are staffed to the right staffing levels to make sure that we’re offering that great, quality customer service that our customers expect, enjoy and deserve.”

Still, delays from other places hold up customers, causing Jill Schinkel and her family to stay another night in Birmingham.

“You could tell when we were supposed to be boarding and there wasn’t even a plane there yet, so we knew something was up,” Schinkel said. “It had just gotten there and I don’t even think it was going to take off when they said it was going to.”

Airport officials in Birmingham said they haven’t seen anything like what Franklin witnessed. They’re also planning another hiring event to prepare for even more travelers later this summer.

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