Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to staff shortages and strikes at European airports, which have caused long queues at check-in counters, even many cancelling their travel plans. This is coming in the way of a solid post-pandemic recovery in the airline and travel industry. From Frankfurt to London, airports are experiencing chaotic scenes.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
Labour unrest at airports
After months of job cuts and pay cuts, many employees in the airline industry are asking for better working conditions and higher pay. In June, Norwegian Air agreed to give its pilots a 3.7% pay rise. Other airlines may have to offer better working conditions in order to avoid similar strikes.
In July, both Ryanair and SAS agreed to terms with unions representing their pilots. British Airways and Air France-KLM also reached wage deals with ground staff. These deals were made during the busy holiday season.
On July 31, the pilots of Lufthansa voted to go on strike. The union, Vereinigung Cockpit, is demanding a 5.5% pay rise this year and automatic inflation compensation thereafter. The airline was already hit by a walkout by its ground staff on July 27. Labour union Verdi is also demanding a 9.5% raise for its members.
Cabin crew members of Ryanair 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 strike, which was backed by Sitclpa, will last from Monday to Thursday.
On July 29, Easyjet’s Spanish-based pilots announced that they would go on strike for nine days in August for similar reasons.
All of this labour unrest leads to a huge number of flight cancellations disrupting travel plans for many.
Lesser number of summer flights scheduled
Several airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Wizz Air, and KLM, cut their summer schedules. Major airports also took steps to limit the number of passengers. On July 12, London’s Heathrow asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets, as it had to limit the number of people using its facilities to 1,00,000 a day to prevent delays and cancellations.
Airlines on a hiring spree and salary restructuring
After many of the airport’s security and border control staff members left during the COVID-19 crisis, both airlines and airports started hiring new workers. However, it is not easy to find people with the necessary skills and experience to work at airports, which are typically located out of town.
In response, Amsterdam’s Schiphol agreed to hire 15,000 workers during the summer season. It also needs to hire 500 more security staff to maintain its current 58,000 employees. Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports that laid off 20, 000 people during the pandemic need to hire 4,000 workers for various jobs, according to the CDG Alliance and Groupe ADP.
Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest hub, rehired about 1,000 of the 4,000 ground services staff members it had previously laid off during the pandemic.
The airport authorities and carriers are also providing incentives to staff who are ready to postpone their vacation and who can bring in new recruits.