Strikes and chaos are bringing Europe’s airports to a standstill at the worst possible time: summer

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It doesn’t matter where you go on vacation. Opt for central Europe, a safari in South Africa, the coasts of Southeast Asia or tour Route 66 At the controls of a Harley-Davidson, chances are that the most tense moments, the ones that make your neck and back muscles strain, will be the ones you spend at the airport. Not for fear of flying or being late at the gate. No way. The danger is that a strike end up complicating your plans.

After two years of the pandemic, airlines, hotels and travelers trust that the summer of 2022 will mark the back to blessed normal and, with luck, demand and supply approach the pre-crisis levels of 2019. And in a certain way, it will be so. That of 2022 is a campaign of reconnection with normality. Only that a normality that shows its worst face and with a hangover from COVID.

A summer like before. There was a desire to travel and that has been evident for a long time in the expectations that the sector manages. To anticipate demand, airlines programmed more than 32.4 million places to fly to Spain between June and August, which is equivalent to recovering 94% of the volume that was handled in 2019. In the case of Aena, the forecasts were even more promising in March and pointed an increase of 1.6% in the schedule from April to October.

Data from the National Outbound Tourism Observatory outlined an equally positive scenario: according to their calculations, approximately 89% of Spanish tourists plan to travel this summer, 21 points above last year. What’s more, 37% had already booked a month ago.

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The point is that not only tourists return. No. So do the less friendly pictures of airports: queues for miles, idle hours and cancellations. In Amsterdam, Mallorca, Bristol, Brussels or Dublin they recorded long waits weeks ago in the purest pre-pandemic style and some airlines, such as Easy Jet, British Airways or Air France-KLM were even forced to cancel operations, with the consequent anger of travelers.

And to complicate it: the calendar of strikes. The scenario for the coming days and weeks is also complex and is marked by a calendar of strikes that has already been activated. The Ryanair crew unions in Spain have called demonstrations for June 24, 25, 26 and 30 and July 1 and 2. In the case of EasyJet, stoppages affecting staff at El Prat, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca have been scheduled for July 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 17, 29, 30 and 31.

The list is completed by British Airways, whose ground workers at Heathrow (United Kingdom) have already voted in favor of a strike yet to be finalized but that will probably be organized between the end of July and August; and Brussels Airlines, which has also seen how its cabin crew and pilots called for a mobilization for this week, between Thursday and Saturday.

They are a good handful of airlines. And they might not be the only ones. The Air France pilots’ union and its low-cost subsidiary Transavia already have pointed out a similar measure of pressure. Here, in Spain, the main group of air traffic controllers, USCA, recognized a few days ago to the diary The reason that the possibility of moving during the summer is “a real option”.

What are the workers demanding? Basically, an improvement of their conditions. The Ryanair union has lamented that the low cost treats employees as “third party workers” and that of EasyJet aims to unblock the negotiation of the collective agreement for crew members and equate with the situation of employees in other European bases.

A similar claim is pursued by the workers of British Airways or Air France and Transavia, who denounce the lack of personnel. The Gallic union censors the “systematic use of subcontractors” and demands reinforcements that allow employees to offer passengers “dignified flights”.

The air traffic controllers in Spain do not see the template as well dimensioned either. Despite the fact that the public manager, Enaire, assures that there are now more personnel than before the pandemic, the union USCA regrets that not all the reinforcements offered by the airport manager they will arrive on time to face the increase in demand that is expected for the summer months.

The perfect storm in the sector. The scenario is certainly not simple. Added to the good prospects in terms of traffic volume some handicaps that can condition flights. One of the main ones, curiously, is inherited from the health crisis: during the worst moment of the pandemic, when mobility bans were applied and travel collapsed, the sector saw thousands of jobs destroyed in airlines and airports .

More than two years have passed since that and the group has still not recovered the lost muscle. It is estimated that at the peak of the pandemic they took to the streets at least 191,000 workers in Europe. Airlines UK itself estimates that British carriers shed some 30,000 employeesmuch less in any case than what was lost in maintenance and services.

Not everything is a legacy of COVID, of course. The bureaucracy and the political scene also contribute their grain of sand. the consummation of brexit implies that the British must face tighter controls to access the EU, which translates into increased workload at aerodromes.

The challenge is serious due to the significant flow of English people that moves between the United Kingdom and Spain every summer: only in 2019 were counted 18 million. More or less they represent 20% of the entire flow of foreign travelers that Spain receives. To complete that picture, JUPOL alerted recently that there are not enough police officers to deal with this avalanche of work. For now, the Government has already announced that the service will be reinforced with new police stations.

“The British tourist, who represents a very large volume, now has to go through a much longer process by having to stamp the passport. All this lengthens the procedures. We have to do double and even triple the work. The police are what it is, the means are what they are and we cannot duplicate ourselves, explains Pablo Perezrepresentative of JUPOL, to EuroNews.

A sky full of planes, again: business flights return to their pre-pandemic levels

What is the consequence? Probably images similar to those we have already seen in airports in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands or the south of Spain during the last few weeks. At the Amsterdam-Schiphol terminal, for example, one of the largest in Europe, travelers have been warned that they are likely to encounter delays throughout the summer.

Also Ryanair has reported of possible delays in its operations in Spain this weekend due to the strike of its cabin crew and the mobilization of the French controllers.

Cover Image | Mark Hodson Photos (Flickr) Y Magharebia (Flickr)

It doesn’t matter where you go on vacation. Opt for central Europe, a safari in South Africa, the coasts of…

It doesn’t matter where you go on vacation. Opt for central Europe, a safari in South Africa, the coasts of…

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