It’s not looking good.
Travel in Europe has become a nightmare. Last month, the queues outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport were so long that KLM halted ticket bookings for four days. In the U.K., hundreds of daily flights have been delayed and canceled, and social media is abuzz with pictures of snaking lines at British airports. Dublin Airport even asked passengers to rebook their flights because lines were so long that travelers wouldn’t make it to their gates on time. Meanwhile, Spanish airline Iberia said that 15,000 passengers have missed their flights from Madrid since March, all due to airport hold-ups.
According to experts, the situation isn’t going to get resolved anytime soon.
Why Is This Happening?
After two pandemic summers, travelers have decided to return to the skies. The aviation industry is witnessing rebounding numbers and expects to make a recovery as soon as 2023, according to IATA. However, airlines and airports don’t appear to be ready for this onslaught.
Much like in the U.S., European travel companies cut jobs when the pandemic began in 2020—around 200,000 aviation workers were sacked, according to Euro News. There are currently staff shortages for airport security, ground staff, baggage handling, maintenance, and airline staff, including pilots and cabin crew. Paris’ two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, have a combined shortage of 4,000 workers and need another 300 to 500 border police.
The travel surge has contributed to an increase in lost baggage, queue time, flight cancelations, and general mayhem. Airlines have trimmed their summer schedule to account for shortages, but it hasn’t been enough to iron out all the wrinkles.
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To make matters worse, workers are striking to protest low wages, difficult hours, and frustrating working conditions. Paris’ CDG canceled 100 flights after unionized employees walked off their jobs on June 9. In Italy, air traffic controllers went on a 24-hour strike on June 8, which resulted in the cancelation of 360 flights. Pilots and crew members at EasyJet, Ryanair, and Volotea also staged a walk-off.
A Perfect Storm in the U.K.
Things are even more complicated in the U.K. After Brexit, British travelers lost their privilege to travel within the E.U. without fuss. Travelers now need to have their passports stamped on entry and exit, contributing to the delays. Additionally, Brexit has pushed out E.U. workers in the country—the travel industry has pleaded its case to hire from overseas, but the request was denied.
This weekend, the country found itself in a tough spot when the four-day Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend brought hoards of people to the capital. But thousands were stranded throughout Europe due to flight cancelations; even Eurostar train service from Paris to London faced disruptions.
British Airways and EasyJet are canceling more than a hundred flights every day. The CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, said it may take 12 to 18 months for the sector to fully recover capacity.
Prepare for the Snarls
American travelers are no stranger to the messiness of flying. On the Memorial weekend, more than 2,800 flights were canceled by U.S. airlines, with Delta scrapping 800 flights in five days.
So whether you’re traveling within the U.S. or taking that long-pending European vacation this summer, you will most likely face hiccups.
The best thing you can do is postpone your vacation to later in the year to avoid these problems as well as ditch the crowds that have descended to Europe. If that’s not possible, take extra care to save yourself heartache and frustrations.
Arrive at the airport early, especially for international flights. A head start of 3.5 hours is not a stretch, given the winding lines at check-in, security, and passport check. Refundable and flexible bookings and travel insurance are a must these days. Book direct flights, and always read the fine print to check the compensation you’re entitled to if an airline (domestic or international) delays or cancels your flights.
Anywhere you can, get priority boarding and fast check-in. It will be worth the price. Another thing to do is follow your airlines and airports on Twitter and download their apps to ensure you don’t miss an update or advice. Many airports have been recommending that people reschedule their flights.
This may be a big ask but if you can travel without checked luggage, you will save yourself more wait times at the luggage belt (mishandled luggage is also a routine complaint because of a lack of luggage handlers).