Peter Dejon / AP
London — Did you get a travel plan for Europe this summer? Don’t forget to pack your passport, sunscreen, and enough patience.
Liz Morgan arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol four and a half hours before his flight to Athens and found a line of guards sneaking up from the terminal into a large tent along the road before returning to the interior of the main building.
“There are seniors, children and babies in line. No water, no signboards, no help, no toilets,” said Australian natives, check in online on Monday to save time. Said Morgan. Carry-on bag only.
“People couldn’t go to the bathroom because they lost their place when they got out of line,” she said.
After two years of pandemic regulation, travel demand has skyrocketed, but airlines and airports that have significantly reduced their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis are having a hard time catching up. As the busy summer tourist season begins in Europe, passengers are encountering chaotic scenes at the airport. This includes long delays, flight cancellations, and headaches due to lost luggage.
Schiphol Airport, the busiest airport in the Netherlands, is reducing flights by saying that it has thousands of aircraft seats per day, exceeding the capacity that security staff can handle. Dutch airline KLM apologizes for having stranded passengers there this month.
London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports are asking airlines to cap flight numbers. Discount carrier easyJet is abandoning thousands of summer flights to avoid last minute cancellations and meet the caps at Gatwick and Schiphol airports. A North American airline has written a letter to the Irish Transport Director calling for urgent action to tackle a “significant delay” at a Dublin airport.
According to data from aviation consultancy Cirium, about 2,000 flights from major European continental airports were canceled this month for a week, with Schiphol accounting for about 9%. According to Cirium, another 376 flights have been canceled from UK airports, with Heathrow accounting for 28%.
This is the same story in the United States, where airlines canceled thousands of flights in the last two days due to bad weather, just as the crowd of tourists in the summer grows.
“Most of the time, people are traveling,” said Julia LoBue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Group, which represents about 350 UK travel agencies. However, she said the airport is suffering from a staff shortage and it will take much longer to process the security clearance for new employees.
Olivier Matthys / AP
“They all create bottlenecks in the system,” she said.
The Biden administration has abolished the COVID-19 inspection of people entering the United States, further boosting the demand for transatlantic travel. According to Bue-Said, a travel agency represented by her group reported a surge in US bookings after the requirements were dropped this month.
For American travelers to Europe, the strong dollar against the euro and pound is also a factor. That’s because it makes payments to hotels and restaurants more affordable.
At Heathrow Airport, a sea of unclaimed luggage covered the terminal floor last week. The airport blamed the technical malfunction of the baggage system and asked the airline to reduce flights by 10% at the two terminals on Monday, affecting about 5,000 passengers.
According to the airport, “many passengers” may have traveled without luggage.
This month, when cookbook writer Marina Spieler returned from Stockholm to London, it took three hours to pass passport management.
73-year-old Spieler spent at least an additional hour and a half looking for luggage in the “madhouse with piles of suitcases everywhere” baggage area.
She almost gave up before finding the bag in the carousel. She plans another trip to Greece within a few weeks, but she is worried about going to the airport again.
“Frankly, I’m afraid of my well-being. Am I strong enough to endure this?” Speeler said in an email.
In Sweden, the security route at Stockholm Arlanda Airport is very long this summer, with many passengers arriving more than five hours before boarding time. With so many people appearing early, authorities are alienating travelers arriving more than three hours before their flight to ease congestion.
Despite some improvements, the line to one of the checkpoints stretched over 100 meters (328 feet) on Monday.
Four young German women, nervous about missing a flight to Hamburg while waiting to check their luggage, asked other passengers if they could skip to the top of the line. When they got there, they bought a fast track pass to avoid long security queues.
Lina Wheele, 19, said she had never seen the same level of turmoil at other airports before rushing to the highway lane.
Peter Dejon / AP
Thousands of pilots, cabin crews, baggage handlers, and other aviation workers were fired during a pandemic, and there are now not enough to deal with travel rebounds.
Willy Walsh, Head of the International Air Transport Association, said:
The post-pandemic staff shortage is not unique to the aviation industry, Walsh said at the annual meeting of aviation trade associations in Qatar this week.
“The difficulty for us is that many jobs aren’t remotely controlled, so airlines couldn’t provide employees with the same flexibility as any other company,” he said. .. “To fly an aircraft, pilots need to be present, flight attendants need to be present. We need to load people with bags and assist passengers.”
Joostvan Doesburg, an FNV union representing most of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport staff, said the fired aviation workers “found new jobs with higher wages and more stable contracts.” “And now everyone wants to travel again,” but workers don’t want to work at the airport.
The CEO of Europe’s largest airline, low-cost carrier Ryanair, warned that flight delays and cancellations would continue “all summer.” Passengers should expect an “unsatisfactory experience,” Michael O’Reilly told Sky News.
Some European airports haven’t had any major problems yet, but they have the courage. At Vaclav Havel International Airport in Prague, the number of passengers is expected to surge from next week to July, saying, “There may be a shortage of staff, especially for security checks.”
Despite launching a recruitment campaign earlier this year, she said the airport still lacks “dozens of staff.”
Labor disputes are also causing problems.
In Belgium, Brussels Airlines said a three-day strike starting Thursday will force the cancellation of about 315 flights and affect about 40,000 passengers.
This month, there was a two-day strike at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. One is by security guards and the other is by airport staff who say salaries are not keeping up with inflation. A quarter of flights canceled on the second day. Some Air France pilots threatened a strike on Saturday, warning that crew fatigue threatened flight safety, and airport officials vowed another salary-related strike on July 1.
Still, airport problems are unlikely to hinder people’s flight, said Jan Bezdek, a spokesman for Czech travel agency CK Fischer, who has sold more holiday packages so far this year than before the pandemic.
“What we can see is that after a pandemic, people can’t wait for a trip,” Bezdeck said. “Any problem at the airport can hardly change it.”