EU airlines face strikes, struggle to find workers after hectic summer travel

Some airlines and airports are struggling with the need to travel after giving birth.

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LONDON – Delays, cancellations and strikes. It’s been a tumultuous time for many travel hotspots in Europe as airlines and airports struggle to cope with staffing problems and pent-up travel demand after Covid-19 lock the door.

Thousands of flights have been canceled and travelers have been queuing for hours for passports and baggage collection at airports across Europe – and the problems are expected to linger.

On Monday, Scandinavian airline SAS canceled 173 flights, more than half of its schedule, as a breakdown in salary negotiations triggered a pilot strike. It said the strike would force it to cancel half of SAS’s scheduled flights and affect about 30,000 passengers a day.

“This summer’s air travel is fraught with uncertainty, for both passengers and airlines,” Laura Hoy, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told CNBC via email.

“Extended delays and cancellations can affect consumers’ desire to travel while airlines find the line between trying to capture the post-pandemic travel boom and being prepared.” for potential deceleration ahead as economic conditions deteriorate.”

According to aviation data firm Cirium, 400 flights were canceled at all UK airports between June 24 and June 30, a 158% increase on the same period in 2019.

And that’s outside of the peak summer season – usually from July to early September in Europe.

London’s busiest airport, Heathrow, last week asked airlines to cut flights, as passenger volumes were higher than they could cope. Some passengers were unaware their flights had been cancelled, while others complained of long queues.

There will be continued disruption into the summer.

Stephen Furlong

Stephen Furlong, senior industry analyst at Davy

Meanwhile, low-cost airlines easyJet cut thousands of flights over the summer in an effort to reduce the risk of disorder. Its chief executive, Peter Bellew, resigned on Monday following the disruption. The airline said it was “fully focused on our day-to-day operations” and that it had “taken prior action to build further resilience for the summer due to the current operating environment.”

Many people have also faced travel problems in the US as they want to go on vacation for the weekend of July 4th, with more than 12,000 flights delayed and hundreds of flights cancelledHowever interruption is greatly reduced in Monday.

According to Stephen Furlong, senior industry analyst at property management firm Davy, it is unlikely that the travel turmoil will ease in the coming months.

“There will be continued disruption into the summer whether ATC [cargo] He added.

In France in June, a quarter of flights were canceled at the main airport in Paris due to a workers’ strike.

And more strike-related disturbances could be on the way. British Airways is bracing for a staff strike in the coming weeks as workers demand a 10% pay cut during pandemic reversed. And Ryanair Workers in Spain over the weekend said they would go on strike for 12 days in July, to promote better working conditions.

What caused the interruption?

There are a number of reasons for travel chaos and they are mostly industry-wide issues, rather than specific country or airline issues.

“The speed with which passengers have returned to the skies since spring has surprised airlines and airports a bit. They simply don’t have the staff right now that we need for a schedule. full program in the summer,” Alexander Irving, Europe Transport Analyst at AB Bernstein, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” last week.

Many airlines, airport operators and other companies in the travel sector have laid off workers during the pandemic as their businesses have halted. Many of these workers have sought opportunities elsewhere and have not returned to the field, while others have been pushed into early retirement.

“Ultimately, we need more staff,” Irving said.

Also, it’s hard to attract new talent right now due to labor market changes, such as the so-called Mass Resignation – when workers choose to quit their jobs, often without others, in search of a better job. BALANCE.

Hiring new people is also a medium to long term solution, as in many tourism-related jobs, training is required before workers start their jobs.

At the same time, many people who stay in the industry do not feel adequately compensated and complain about their working conditions.

Irving talks about labor issues and strikes.

At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, a team of cleaners, baggage handlers and security personnel will be paid an extra 5.25 euros ($5.55) an hour this summer, according to Reuters. However, the same airport has announced that it will limit passenger numbers this summer, especially to reduce disruption.

Other countries are also trying to improve the situation as their airports. In Spain, police are hiring more staff at some of the country’s busiest airports, and Portugal is also ramping up border control staff.

“The response of most companies when the pandemic hits is to reduce capacity due to lower expectations of extended periods of growth. The pandemic, however, has yielded a different outcome: a place where the global economy is located. almost went out then turned back on for a short while,” Roger Jones, head of equities at London & Capital, told CNBC.

He said that in addition to the labor market shortage, inflation is also an issue.

“Cost inflation, especially fuel and wages, is exacerbating the situation and making it a really tough operating environment, which is weighing heavily on profits,” he said by email. .

Many airlines, including British Airways and Air France-KLM, get financial support from governments during the pandemic to avoid collapse. However, some unions and airlines are now asking the government for more help to support the sector’s revival.

Despite the strikes, cancellations and other disruptions, some analysts remain positive on the sector and say the recent situation has been “overwhelmed”.

“I really feel that it is overrated by the media and the majority of flights are operating and on time. Ryanair, for example, while operating at 115% of its pre-Covid capacity planned for the flight. this and have largely avoided disruption to date,” Davy’s Furlong said by email.

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