The number of people working in air transport across the European Union is at its lowest level in 14 years, official data show, as airlines reduced their workforce due to COVID-19.
Around 325,600 people were employed by airlines and associated enterprises across the 27 member states during the first three months of the year, according to figures from Eurostat released on Tuesday.
This is the lowest number since the series began in 2008 and a significant decrease from pre-pandemic levels -- some 410,000 people were employed in the air transport sector in the first quarter of 2019.
Workers aged 15 to 39 were particularly impacted with their overall number dropping from 184,900 pre-pandemic to 121,400.
Authorities worldwide reacted to the spread of the COVID-19 disease by shutting borders for non-nationals, which resulted in air travel numbers nosediving.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), passenger figures slumped by 60% in 2020 compared to the previous year and while the sector started to recover in 2021, passenger numbers were still 40% lower than in 2019.
This was estimated to have led to a loss of revenues for airlines of about $372 billion (€363 billion) and $324 billion (€316 billion) in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
National governments across the EU were forced to step in and bail out many struggling airlines including flagship carriers such as Germany's Lufthansa and France's Air France.
This year, however, airlines were criticised for failing to adequately restaff ahead of the busy summer season as labour shortages have been blamed for the tens of thousands of flight cancellations and severe delays.