Europe’s travel nightmare: Chaotic scene at airports as flights get cancelled and staff go on strikes; Here’s why


Thousands of flights have been canceled due to staff shortages and strikes at European airports, resulting in long queues at check-in counters, and many have even canceled their travel plans. This is standing in the way of a solid post-pandemic recovery in the airline and travel industry. From Frankfurt to London, airports experience chaotic scenes.

Here is a summary of some of the key developments:

Labor unrest at airports

After months of job cuts and wage cuts, many workers in the airline industry are demanding better working conditions and higher wages. In June, Norwegian Air agreed to give its pilots a 3.7% pay rise. Other airlines may need to offer better working conditions to avoid similar strikes.

In July, both Ryanair and SAS reached agreements with unions representing their pilots. British Airways and Air France-KLM have also signed collective agreements with ground staff. These deals were made during the busy holiday season.

On July 31, Lufthansa pilots voted to go on strike. The union Vereinigung Cockpit is calling for a salary increase of 5.5% this year and then automatic inflation compensation. Already on July 27, the airline was hit by a ground staff strike. The Verdi union is also demanding a salary increase of 9.5 percent for its members.

Ryanair cabin crew members in Spain voted to go on strike from August 8 to January 7 in response to their demands for better working conditions and higher pay. The Sitclpa-backed strike will last from Monday to Thursday.

On July 29, Easyjet’s Spain-based pilots announced they would be on strike for nine days in August for similar reasons.

All of this labor unrest is causing a large number of flight cancellations, disrupting travel plans for many.

Fewer summer flights planned

Several airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa, Wizz Air and KLM have cut their summer schedules. Large airports have also taken measures to limit the number of passengers. On July 12, London’s Heathrow Airport asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets because it had to limit the number of people using its facilities to 1,00,000 per day to avoid delays and cancellations.

Airlines on a hiring spree and payroll restructuring

After many airport security and border control staff left during the COVID-19 crisis, both airlines and airports began hiring new employees. However, it is not easy to find people with the necessary skills and experience to work at airports that are usually out of town.

In response, Amsterdam’s Schiphol agreed to hire 15,000 workers during the summer season. It will also need to hire 500 additional security guards to maintain its current 58,000 workforce. According to the CDG Alliance and Groupe ADP, Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, which have laid off 20,000 people during the pandemic, need to hire 4,000 workers for various jobs.

Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest hub, has rehired about 1,000 of the 4,000 ground service workers it previously laid off during the pandemic.

Airport authorities and airlines also offer incentives to employees who are willing to postpone their vacation and who can hire new employees.


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