- Flight crew told CNN they're exhausted and overworked during the current airport chaos.
- One flight attendant said crews are being "maxed out" and "worked to the bone."
- Understaffing is leading to delays, long lines, and a surge in lost luggage.
Flight crews are exhausted and overworked as they take on extra hours during the current airport chaos, airline staff told CNN.
Unpredictable schedules and stressful situations are straining the physical and mental wellbeing of flight crew, they told CNN. One flight attendant told the publication that crews are being "maxed out."
A combination of understaffing at airlines and airports and soaring demand for summer travel has caused a spike in flight delays, cancellations, long lines for security, and lost luggage. Strikes, bad weather, and technical issues have made the situation even worse.
Airline staff are getting "worked to the bone," Allie Malis, government affairs representative at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a union representing American Airlines air crew, told CNN.
"Flight attendants are being maxed out, working the longest days we've had, with the shortest rest periods overnight that we've had and that does get you sick, that does lead to exhaustion and fatigue and weakens your immune system," she said.
"Sickness levels have gone through the roof, fatigue levels have gone through the roof," Kris Major, chair of the European Transport Workers Federation's joint aircrew committee, told CNN.
Staff "just can't cope with the constant changes," he added.
Major appears to work at British Airways, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Among Lufthansa ground crew, COVID-19 and fatigue-related time off has reached 30%, but remained under 10% for crew and pilots, a spokesperson told CNN.
One Lufthansa flight attendant previously told Insider that they spent twice as much time on-call than previously and would almost always be asked to work, and said their schedules were often changed last minute.
"I often get on the first plane in the morning, but I don't know which will be my last flight, where it will go, or how long I'll have to stay there," they said. "Since the chaos began, my private life has been nonexistent; I simply can't plan anything anymore."
Amid the travel chaos, flight attendants are also spending more time consoling and de-escalating upset passengers, with one saying they take their uniform off when traveling home because they don't feel safe in it.
The flight attendants told CNN that they blamed the shortage of workers on low wages and unpredictable schedules, as well as airlines' lack of advance planning during the pandemic.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2021, US flight attendants earn $61,640 per year on average.
Most major airlines only pay flight attendants for the time beginning when the aircraft doors close and the engine starts, including taxiing, meaning staff don't get compensation for boarding, delays, or unexpected hold ups at the gate, Insider previously reported.
"The industry has created its own problem," Major said. "It's completely unsustainable as a job."