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Personnel shortages the next big storm on aviation radar: CAPA

Written by: Staff

Hong Kong, Jul 5 (UNI) Shortages of skilled employees are beginning to bite with some Asia Pacific airlines scaling back their expansion plans and things are likely to worsen in future, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

CAPA estimates that operators in the Asia Pacific and Middle East will require 150,000 additional employees to support new aircraft currently on order. India and China will be the most seriously affected.

''If I had to choose between fuel costs, rising interest rates and staff shortages as the biggest potential disruption to aviation growth in this region, I would put my money on staff shortages,'' said CAPA's executive chairman Peter Harbison.

''It's the big storm on the radar and some carriers, particularly those in fast-growing emerging markets, are already feeling the turbulence by trimming expansion plans.'' Mr Harbison said the looming training crisis is also increasing pressure on governments to change the regulatory environment to make it easier to train and retain personnel, while ''trying to strike a balance with the all-important requirement that safety must come first.'' The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) this week cut its growth forecast for the Asia Pacific by 3.1 per cent for 2006 and 4.6 per cent for 2007 compared to last year's forecast.

''Whether this is in recognition of some of the constraints airlines are facing in fulfilling their growth plans we can only speculate. Forecast growth for the region is still above the global average, but the revision by ICAO is a worrying sign,'' said Mr Harbison.

Mr Kevin O'Toole, head of strategy at Flight, said escalating shortages of skilled workers, particularly pilots and maintenance engineers, will occur after record aircraft orders in this region in recent year.

''This will push up wages, adding to the cost equation, and potentially hampering expansion plans. It has also proven a problem in lower-wage countries, from where pilots are being poached en masse by feisty new players such as those in the Middle East.'' UNI SU SBA HT1448

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