Turbulence approaching. With the start of the summer holidays, European airports are expecting longer queues at their terminals. To avoid any inconvenience, passengers are therefore invited to “arrive earlier than usual”advised Olivier Jankovec, the European General Manager of the International Council airports, Friday, June 24. While the effects of the health crisis are still being felt, strike movements could further complicate the situation. Franceinfo takes stock of all the disruptions expected at airports.
Air traffic picks up strongly
After a long air hole due to the Covid-19 pandemic, air activity has picked up again since last February – even if it will take until 2024 to return to 2019 volumes, the Transport Association recently warned. international airline (IATA) in a press release. And it is during the summer period that the flow of travelers should experience its greatest rebound. “Many people have been waiting for their summer vacation for two yearsalerted Willie Walsh, director general of IATA. It shouldn’t be ruined because of a lack of preparation.”
Difficult, for the moment, to have an overall picture of this expected boom. However, several major European airports have revised their traffic forecasts upwards for the coming months, such as Heathrow airport in London (United Kingdom), which has seen a record number of American travelers influx in recent weeks, report it FinancialTimes*. In the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s Schipol airport is overwhelmed by the flow of travelers. “The demand exceeds even the highest expectations”, explained the direction mid-June*. The situation is such that the airport has taken a drastic measure: imposing a daily passenger limit on airlines, in particular because of the shortage of security guards in the country.
Airports are understaffed
In addition to guards and security officers, the aviation sector has a broader need for manpower. During the pandemic, 2.3 million employees around the world have deserted the corridors of terminals* to fall back on other sectors, according to IATA. And even if the health situation has greatly improved in Europe, recruitment remains difficult for airports, which have recently seen their costs explode. “We we also incur energy and personnel costs, which together represent 45% of our operating budgetsaccording to Olivier Jankovec. And of course, inflation drives up the price of materials. Today, we have suppliers who tell us: ‘Sorry, but the price of your work will increase by 50 or 80%’.”
On the side of the airlines too, the lack of staff is becoming critical. In particular among low cost companies, which are reluctant to raise wages, despite galloping inflation. Check-in, boarding, security, baggage management… In an open letter published on June 20*, the European Transport Federation (ETF) denounced a lack of staff on all floors. “Workers in the sector [aérien] suffer from low wages, long working hours and precarious contracts (…) even as self-employed people”, protests the ETF. In Germany, where the country’s airports are short of 7,200 people, the authorities are looking abroad and should recruit at least 1,000 seasonal workers this summer, reports the specialized site Air Journal.
Cancellations already announced
In anticipation of this difficult summer, some companies have pulled a train on part of their flights for the season. German airline Lufthansa come for example to cancel more than 3,000 flights for the summer, for lack of personnel. Ditto for its low cost subsidiary, Eurowings, of which several hundred flights initially planned for July will never take off. In the United Kingdom, the limits imposed by Gatwick airport (London) forced the company EasyJet to withdraw 40 flights from its daily schedule in June and July, while on the side of British Airways, 8,000 flights had already been deleted over the period March-October 2022.
Strikes expected during the summer
In its open letter, the ETF foresees a “summer of anger”, disturbed by numerous social movements. If some airports, such as Heathrow or Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, say they can provide a minimum service in the event of a strike, many flights should be affected by the mobilization of workers. Starting with that of the pilots, such as those of the Alter union (third at Air France), who are worried about the “serious and imminent danger” caused by staff fatigue. A strike notice was also issued on Saturday, June 25.
Social movements should hamper the ballet of European flights throughout the summer. In Spain, for example, Ryanair employees have planned to strike from June 30 to July 2 inclusive. Their Easyjet colleagues working around the airports of Barcelona, Malaga and Palma are called to a slow strike, over three periods of 72 hours: from July 1 to 3, from July 15 to 17, then from July 29 to 31. Since the strike within these low cost companies extends to Belgium, France, Italy, but also to Portugal, it is strongly advised to find out about the strike notices on departure and arrival, if possible a few days before the scheduled flight.