Japan's government panel discusses airport staff shortage due to COVID-19

A Japanese government panel has begun studying ways to address a serious shortage of airport staff as demand for air travel recovers.

Airports are struggling to secure ground staff after many left their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The shortage of workers has resulted in crowded terminals.

A panel of experts set up by the transport ministry met for the first time on Friday to discuss countermeasures.

Ministry officials explained that the number of check-in staff has declined by 22 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. The number of security inspectors fell by 19 percent, while there are 12 percent fewer baggage handlers.

Panel members said the staff shortage is more serious than the numbers suggest. They said the sharp cuts in flights at the height of the pandemic gave workers less on-the-job experience than they would normally enjoy.

The panel plans to interview relevant parties and consider ways to make efficient use of limited manpower. It will also study the adoption of advanced technologies at airports, and possible government subsidies.

The panel is expected to compile an interim report by around the end of May.