Hartsfield-Jackson vendors struggle to hire more workers as travel rebounds

Airport employers sought to fill thousands of open positions at a job fair in the domestic terminal atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

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Airport employers sought to fill thousands of open positions at a job fair in the domestic terminal atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Some restaurateurs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport are still struggling to hire enough workers to operate a full schedule as a resurgence of travel brings more passengers through the terminal.

That leaves many travelers rushing to make their flights standing in long lines to buy food, or they don’t have enough time to get through the queue before boarding — especially during short layovers. That has added another inconvenience to traveling.

More than 2 million passengers are passing through airport security checkpoints across the country on many days, according to Transportation Security Administration figures. That brings traffic close to 2019 levels.

Those who are traveling may find some airport eateries haven’t yet reopened, and others are opening later or closing early because they don’t have enough workers for more shifts.

Airport restaurant operators have tried for months to hire enough workers to operate on a full schedule.

At a career fair in the domestic terminal atrium at the Atlanta airport on Wednesday, about 60 employers were hiring for 3,600 job openings.

Nearly 2,500 job seekers registered for the fair — a bigger turnout than some of the airport’s sparsely-attended job fairs last year.

The lines of job seekers were a positive sign to Mark Sette, talent acquisition manager for Goldbergs Group, which has three locations at Hartsfield-Jackson. With inflation putting pressure on pocketbooks, “I think people have just realized it’s time to return to the job market,” he said.

Still, he said, it’s a challenge to fill positions for cooks, waiters and service staff. Sette said those who got job offers from his company at the career fair could start training as early as the following day.

Many companies have boosted pay to $12-$15 an hour, up from less than $10 an hour before the pandemic, and some are offering signing bonuses — but still struggle to fill positions.

“It’s so hard,” said Alfred Bridges, operating partner for the P.F. Chang’s at Hartsfield-Jackson, which is still on shortened hours until it can get more staff. “Everybody’s short-handed.”

Some workers left the food service business during the pandemic and are not returning.

“We’re still struggling” with staffing,” said HMSHost general manager Kiawanna Patrick. “It’s been our biggest challenge.”

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