It is three in the afternoon on June 20 and in a hotel room in Doha, Qatar, Carsten Spohr does not hide theenthusiasm for the return of people on board his and other airlines’ planes. But immediately after, looking at what is happening in Europe, the Lufthansa number one becomes serious: “Things will not get better in the next few weeks, the worst is yet to come,” he admits in front of some foreign journalists. The first (almost) normal summer after more than two years of the pandemic began with the chaos in European airports.
Long queues at the terminals – last weekend the average wait in Amsterdam was four hours –canceled or heavily delayed flights, tens of thousands of baggage lost also due to the failure of the sorting systems, customer service centers on tilt, planes taking off without food and drink for problems during refueling. To make matters worse strikes were also added – in Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Portugal – which mainly concern low cost and which will continue in July as well.
About 11,000 flights were canceled last month in Europetriple three years ago. Since 1 April there are at least 70,000. Continent companies risk shelling out 453 million euros in compensation, only for the problems in June, to 1.5 million passengers. “Every year we pay out 10 billion in compensation,” he replies to Courier Willie Walsh, general manager of Iata, an association representing airlines. “I think this time the airports also have to pay: these inconveniences are not caused by us.” For July, August and September, the companies canceled another 41,000 flights (7 million people involved). Reductions have been announced by Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Air France-KLM, British Airways, easyJet, Sas. There are also problems in Canada and the USA. Airlines for America estimates that the supply of major US airlines was cut by 15% between July and August.
Passengers have returned to the volumes of 2019, before Covid. But not the personnel of the companies, of the airports (in France there are at least four thousand open positions), handling and catering companies, private security companies. It can take up to six months between hiring and issuing the security clearance, estimates Aci Europe, the association of airports. And there is also a slice of already trained people who, after being fired during the pandemic, have decided to do something else. “Everyone is wondering where the employees have gone and the answer is always: ‘Amazon'”, says Tim Clark, president of Emirates. To deal with the emergency, Germany will “import” workers from abroad to help out in the terminals. In Ireland, the army has been alerted that it is ready to intervene at Dublin airport.
The Italian exception
Not so everywhere. Where governments have intervened with social protection measures, the inconveniences are contained. This is the case of Italy, as confirmed by Pierluigi Di Palma, president of the National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC): “The redundancy fund and the 800 million euros in aid have made it possible to keep airport staff,” he says. But air travel is an ecosystem. What happens for example in the United Kingdom – with stopovers that have sent home even 50% of the workforce – it also has repercussions here.
The hot areas
The epicenter of the inconveniences in Europe? Just the United Kingdom (in particular London Heathrow and Gatwick), Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Hamburg, Brussels. Those who have to move must pay attention to the timing, especially if they have to stop in these structures to then take an intercontinental flight. Not only. The planes are also full. And this would be great news for airlines in normal times. But today it is a further headache because it does not allow passengers to resettle on canceled flights on those confirmed and who usually had free seats.
After all, people can’t wait to get out after more than two years of restrictions. And they are also paying more. Average fares on routes within Europe have risen by almost 30% compared to the summer before and up to 12% on 2019 according to specialized databases. In some cases, such as flights to Spain and Greece even more. The question, given the “war” bulletin, is when all this is resolved. The most optimistic insiders say October-November, the most pessimistic move the moment to April 2023. In the coming weeks it will be necessary to have patience. And, as the Asian Cathay Pacific writes to its customers, “in Europe, do not be aggressive with the employees of airlines and airports. Be Zen ».
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Canceled flights, delays, strikes: this is why the holidays of 7 million people are at risk
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