Having been on the receiving end of those meltdown phonecalls, I feel your pain.
It is just as bad, or even worse, in scheduling and support than it is for the line. They got cut to the bone like everyone else, and suffered a huge brain drain on top of it. This has been emphasized by several meltdowns since peak summer, across several carriers.
The Management burnout is real, as well.
They let pretty much all of the juniors go, leaving only senior staff and management in the ops departments. When the Fed money came, many chose to not return, due to Fed handouts and plenty of other higher paying jobs available. In our case, they didn’t even begin the first new hire training group until May, for the summer crunch. Many in scheduling or support don’t come back after the first or second major meltdown, too many other jobs out there with a whole lot less stress if you aren’t committed to it.
Anyone that has been in this business longer than a month realizes that you have to step up when the schit hits the fan, or else everything falls apart. You do whatever it takes to rebuild the operation. Over the years, I have pulled several 48 hr shifts in the stations, and plenty of 16-20 hr ones at HQ. Been the last group to leave the building and lock the doors forever at a couple of carriers, too. It is what it is…
But you can only do that for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my position, but at some point you begin the “ Is this really worth it?” calculation, as many are being forced to right now. In my case, it was the third round of “Go Away” checks last fall that tipped my decision. I have other skills, and a decent 401k, so why not? I wasn’t the only one, by far. And now the mandate is forcing people that are already retirement eligible to make that same decision, in work group with a far more marketable skill and a fatter 401K than mine. It is a pretty easy decision to make really, if you don’t have three seperate alimony payments.
So now all of that experience and brain power is gone. Instead of someone on the end of the phone who has done this a hundred times, knows the systems backwards and forwards, knows your contract backwards and forward, has a memorized list of backup hotels and limos in almost every city along with the personal cell phone numbers of who to “really” talk with to get anything done, can tell you how to get to the “other” pickup point and save 30 minutes waiting in line because they have used it themselves, you’ve got a newbie who barely understands the contract she read last month, stressed because everyone in the room is hollering, and calling for a sup or coordinator that already has three other people at the desk asking questions, because she isn’t sure what to do next.
We aren’t the only industry going through this, by far, but we can inconvenience a whole lot more people than most.
I've read a lot of good and wise things on this website, but this is one of the best and wisest. While I disagree with you that the vaccine mandate necessarily causes retirement chaos -- UA, for example, has proved that it's a non-issue -- I couldn't agree more with the rest of your post.
Aviation is an exciting industry to work in, especially for those who are truly passionate. The operation still gets my blood pumping -- there's something really special about watching all the pieces come together and moving millions of people to their destinations. But it's not an especially high paying industry for most management/ops folks, and free travel can only carry the day for so long -- at a certain point, it's more attractive to make more money working less hours and buy your own travel.
I'm a more junior employee, and I've never been more concerned about the "brain drain." In my department, senior folks are leaving faster than they can pass knowledge to the rest of us, and we're having to come to grips with the fact that eventually that knowledge will cease to exist. I'm too young and too junior to be so jaded, but I can't help but feel pangs of dread at what's to come.