The disruption and operational meltdowns affecting Europe’s aviation sector, according to flight attendants at German flag carrier Lufthansa, have caused staff to experience “extreme difficulties” with their mental health.
Employee groups requested this week that Lufthansa stop its “cost-cutting craziness” and attributed many of the airline’s current problems, including chronic staff shortages, to top-level mismanagement.
Due to the continued personnel issue, Lufthansa announced on Thursday that it would cancel an extra 900 short-haul flights from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich in July alone.
In an internal memo last month, CEO Carsten Spohr apologized to the staff and acknowledged that the airline’s cost-cutting efforts had gone “too far.” However, Spohr did place Lufthansa’s errors in the context of the pressure company faced to contain significant losses at the height of the pandemic.
The UFO union, which represents flight attendants, claims that the effects of cost-cutting are now seriously affecting its workers’ mental health.
The list of complaints is long and the relentless pressure is starting to take its toll. One major concern is that delayed and disrupted passengers are increasingly taking out their frustrations on front-line staff, sometimes including physical attacks.
In response to accusations of passenger anger, Lufthansa Chairman Karl-Ludwig Kley claims that staff members are experiencing “despair and tears” as a result of the pressure they are being put under.
“I have not seen such an accumulation of problems in my career,” Kley told employees in a recent internal memo.
The airline’s procedures, according to the flight attendants, are addressing many of these issues, but they are also having an effect on their mental health. Due to a manpower shortage, Lufthansa is running flights with fewer crew members, and managers are asking flight attendants to take on more duties without proper training.
Since standby days make up the majority of a flight attendant’s schedule, they might add to their already high levels of stress and anxiety. Because of how quickly and abruptly schedules are changing due to the pandemic, Lufthansa, like many other airlines, is using standby responsibilities far more than before.
“We say it clearly – The demands on our mental health are significantly increased by the summer operations,” the flight attendant union, which also represents crew at Eurowings and Condor, said last week.
The issues are not limited to Lufthansa. Recent complaints from Air France flight attendants about their employer’s reinforcement working conditions come as pressures are beginning to build at an increasing number of carriers.
A wave of industrial discontent has been seen throughout the European aviation industry as a result of the unexpected increase in passenger demand and perceptions of unfair pay and working conditions.