Maria Boyd-Scott turned 60 last month, and she and his wife, Joey Boyd-Scott, 68, celebrated the event in style: They flew business class to Amsterdam, staying in a Hilton for two nights, then headed to France for two nights at the Waldorf Astoria Versailles.
The damage to their wallets? Thanks to their part-time travel jobs, their flights cost $462 in total – they only paid the taxes. The Hilton in Amsterdam was $55 a night and the five-star hotel in France $75 a night. The Boyd-Scotts estimate the trip could have cost more than $6,000.
The couple are part of a growing class of travel auxiliary workers who are stepping in as airlines and hotels, already struggling with thinning ranks after mass layoffs in 2020, now face the big resignation of employees. Many of these new workers are seasoned, silver-haired, and unapologetic about the fact that they’re there for the benefits.
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“I have a lot of friends in the airline industry, and I’ve watched them all fly and thought, ‘Well, that would be fun,'” Maria said. “So I applied when I was 58, and I got a call.”
Maria accepted a role as a ramp agent for United Airlines in May 2021, loading and unloading baggage at Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County, California. Most weeks, she puts in 15 hours, the minimum to maintain access to flight benefits given to all United employees, which include unlimited standby travel for herself and a loved one — free within the United States. and heavily discounted internationally – and discounted fares pending for any location served by the airline.
To complete the deal, Joey earlier this year landed a job as a front desk agent for a Hilton hotel in Riverside, Calif., whose perks include deeply discounted rooms at more than 6,800 hotels in Hilton’s global portfolio. 18 Hilton brands.
So far, the couple have taken advantage of domestic travel, enjoying a discounted stay at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and a $55-a-night getaway at the famed Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego. The European vacation was the first time they combined their benefits, but when Joey completes his training – which is currently five days a week – they plan to make it a regular practice.
“They hired me to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Joey said of Hilton. “So ultimately we will be traveling Monday through Thursday. And we will travel as if we were rich.
The couple is not rich. They live in Upland, Calif., a town about 40 miles inland from Los Angeles, and admit that their new reality – where they can drive to an airport and casually wait for queue tickets for any what a city in the world – keeps making them want to pinch themselves.
The travel industry is facing significant labor shortages. In June, domestic employment in the recreation and hospitality sectors fell nearly 8% from February 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, leaving hotels, airlines and other tour operators ill-equipped to meet growing demand. This crisis – which is reflected in widespread flight cancellations, terminal lobbies filled with lost suitcases and a decrease in room service and daily housekeeping – is prompting companies to recruit at job fairs and sweeten their benefits. with bonuses and same-day pay. It also pushes them to consider seniors for positions that are far from senior.
“We’re open to anything,” said Dan Bienstock, human resources director of EOS Hospitality, a hotel management company. “We have more job openings in the business than ever before, and we’re thinking outside the box to retain talent.”
More than half of the 38 properties in EOS’ portfolio, which includes Red Jacket Resorts on Cape Cod, Mass. and Cape Arundel Inn in Kennebunk, Maine, rely heavily on seasonal guests — and seasonal hiring. The company is not actively targeting older workers for summer jobs, he said, but is focusing its recruitment efforts on local hotel communities to supplement the summer workforce long occupied by older workers. international workers holding H-2B visas.
“The hospitality industry’s labor pool has been hit very hard, and these entry-level jobs have become harder to fill since the pandemic,” said Eric Rubino, chief development officer of Extreme. Hospitality, an asset management company working with over 300 hotels. “For older people, who may not mind working so hard, they can say, ‘I don’t need the money, but this travel benefit means a lot. “”
Even those who don’t need the cash could now see the appeal of a little extra cash. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of hospitality workers over the age of 65 has outpaced the industry’s population growth since 2012, rising from 418,000 to 590,000. The increase comes as the inflation is at record highs, hitting retirees and people on fixed incomes the hardest.
Rubino estimates that since the start of the pandemic, at least 65% of new hires at the properties he works with are either post-retirement or over the age of 50. Representatives from several major airlines, including United, Delta and American, say they either don’t track those demographics or haven’t noticed a change. But hotel hiring managers are.
“I’ve seen an influx of older workers,” said Stephanie Guibert, human resources manager at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Florida. She noted that while her property has seen an increase in applicants overall, “the biggest challenge is getting people to show up for interviews or showing up on their first day.” Older workers and those approaching retirement age, she said, show significantly better follow-up and, as a result, are hired more often.
And at the Hilton Garden Inn resort in Fort Walton Beach, a small town in the Florida panhandle, general manager Rhiannon Reynolds is adjusting to older workers’ desire to work fewer shifts. Reynolds has hired several older workers over the past two years, including an employee who works a single shift each week handing out towels at the hotel pool. All are transparent about why they are there, she said.
“At first you wonder when someone comes in for an interview and only wants to work one day a week, especially when they have a lot of experience,” she said. “But in this work climate, it’s great to have someone professional and reliable.”
With their new part-time jobs, some older workers have found the opportunity to steal a passport for the very first time.
Renae Mattimoe, 49, worked for her father’s trucking company in Montana for 20 years, and when he sold the business in 2020, she didn’t feel moored. Married with seven children, her only international trip had been to Canada in the 1990s, when Americans could still enter with just a driver’s license or birth certificate.
“When you have seven kids, you can’t afford to fly,” she said.
Earlier this year, she took a part-time job with Envoy Air — a regional carrier for American Airlines — at Bozeman Airport in Montana. She checks people in, takes luggage and occasionally works on the ramp. She can also now fly for free, or just for taxes if the destination is international. In January, she and a colleague flew to Madrid on American Airlines for $46 each. The trip marked the first use of his passport. A visit to London followed.
She only earns $20 an hour and is quick to point out that she would never have enjoyed the job, or its attendant benefits, if she weren’t already financially secure.
“You can’t pay your mortgage with flight compensation. You have to be able to afford it,” she said. “But it’s surreal. I never imagined this would be my life.
In Madrid, she said, she felt spontaneous and daring, adding that she and her friend walked around all night and based their restaurant choices on the length of queues at the outside.
Others entering the travel industry are seasoned professionals: Denise McGinnis, 57, worked in hotel management in her home state of Wisconsin for 17 years before retiring — or trying to retire. Divorced and a mother of three, McGinnis is also a longtime adoptive mother, and she found she missed out on the perks of her old job too much when she retired. She now works two shifts a week at the front desk of a Wyndham hotel and plans to cash in her perks — which at Wyndham translate into both discounts and earned points — at an all-inclusive Wyndham Resort in Cancun. .
“As an adoptive mother, I often had children come to me and had nothing. So I know how to be smart and thrifty. It just plays into it,” she said.
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