Cameron Latchford worked for nearly five years at three US airports before quitting in 2021.
He told Insider he left because of poor pay, a lack of career progression, and rude passengers.
Now he works at a factory, and said he likes working with machines instead of the public.
Cameron Latchford spent nearly five years working at three US airports, as a ramp assistant, on ticket desks, in wheelchair support, as a line technician, and most recently, in a cargo-sorting office.
He said he grew up with an interest in aviation, and when he got to work in the industry, there was plenty to enjoy about it, like being active and working outdoors, and having a regular work schedule with full-time hours.
But he quit in 2021 and hasn't worked in the industry since. He told Insider that poor pay, a lack of career progression, and rude customers all played a part in his decision to leave.
"It kind of feels like the industry is in a downward spiral," Latchford said, having observed the travel chaos this summer, which has been blamed in large part on an industry-wide labor shortage. "Things are not improving but actually getting worse every year, and they have been for a long time."
Latchford, whose employment history was verified by Insider, suggested poor pay was a key reason the industry was struggling with recruitment. Even though airport jobs often involve technical skill and the discipline required to adhere to strict protocols, every one of his roles paid minimum or near-minimum wage, he said, adding: "It's not adequate."
Low pay has also been highlighted as a problem by unions and workers. Several airlines including Lufthansa, American Airlines, and British Airways have been locked in disputes with contractors and pilots demanding pay hikes as living costs soar.
Airlines outsource a large proportion of roles to contractors, something Latchford said was "quite inefficient." When airline staff were working with different companies and to different agendas, it created more space for things to go wrong, he said.
He recalled an incident while working as a cargo-checker, when a customer arrived to collect an exotic bird that was supposed to have arrived that day. He said that he searched for the tracking number and found the bird hadn't been loaded onto the plane, and was still sitting at an airport that was a two-hour flight away. He also discovered the bird was now being handled by an airline he didn't work for.
Latchford said of the customer: "He just went into a complete rage and was threatening me and saying, 'How could you do this to me? I need this bird. What if the bird dies?'" But because the bird was being handled by a different airline, Latchford said he had no idea who to contact.
Latchford said there wasn't a single reason why he quit the industry but he did get fed up dealing with rude customers, adding: "There's been a lot of incidents of people punching flight attendants and being unruly."
Now the 32-year-old works in a factory producing technical ceramics, some of which are used in the aviation industry.
"One of the things I do like about my job is that I program machines instead of having to deal with the public," he said. There was an "issue" with "rage at airports in the US," he added.
Still, Latchford said he doesn't have an ax to grind, and would consider working in the industry again — but only if conditions improve, something he doesn't see happening soon.
"Generally speaking, at American airports, most people are angry," he said. "Who can blame them?"
Are you a current or former aviation worker? Contact this journalist on firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the original article on Business Insider