europe: Are you planning a trip to Europe this summer? Airline workers’ revolt may lead to flight cancellations, delays and long lines

PARIS: A spiral of strikes by workers in Europe’s crucial aviation sector and canceled flights at a time when millions of travelers seek to get away for the summer, threaten the sector’s tentative recovery.

Airports and airlines are caving under the pressure of pent-up demand during the pandemic that has been unleashed on understaffed and stretched operations across Europe.

cabin crew

A coordinated strike by Ryanair flight attendants in five European countries has shed light on the volatility of labor relations at low-cost airlines.

“It’s June and colleagues are already exhausted,” said Damien Mourgues, SNPNC shop steward at Ryanair.

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“Our base salary is 854 euros (900 dollars) with variables of 8.50 euros per hour” stolen, he specified.

In Spain, “we have a base salary of only 950 euros” and “when you don’t fly, you earn 950 euros, that’s all”, lamented Pier Luigi Copellon, steward based in Barcelona for 14 years. .

At Transavia in France and at Volotea in Spain, the prospect of summer strikes is increasingly possible. At Brussels Airlines, which is on strike on Friday, “a crew member works between 50 and 60 hours over five days on average,” said Claudia de Coster, cabin manager and representative of the Belgian union Setca-FGTB.

Airport Security Officers

Frontline airport security suffers more than any other aviation personnel from understaffing as traffic increases.

Baggage and passenger screening officers at inspection points are forced to manage heavy footfall with fewer hands on deck than before.

“We end up with two or three instead of five per checkpoint,” laments Saïd Abdou, Securitas employee at Paris Orly airport and representative of the CGT union.

“The pace is so fast. Securitas had hired 17 people recently, they did a day and they didn’t come back – it was too hard,” he said.

Eight of his colleagues suffered from burnout, he said, because they were denied leave this summer.

Saïd Abdou receives 1,500 euros after taxes and deductions, paid 13 times a year, and an individual performance bonus of 500 euros per year after 18 years of service.

On Monday, a strike by security personnel at Brussels Zaventem airport led to the cancellation of all flights for the day.

Baggage handlers “Among the baggage handlers, there are those who put the luggage on the carousel, those who squat in the hold of the plane to pack it, it’s very tiring”, explains Luc Atlan, host on the air Unsa airport. union.

Baggage handling companies, which depend on big contracts like Air France, massively reduced their workforce at the height of the pandemic.

The sudden increase in the growth rate leads to “working under pressure. And with the lack of staff, you go fast and you get hurt. There’s going to be an increasing absence rate,” Atlan said.

– Attendants – They are less important than other frontline workers in the aviation ecosystem, but essential to the smooth running of the airport.

The people in charge of accompanying people with reduced mobility are nonetheless essential to the traveling public.

“We have a lot of delays, a lot of mistakes,” said Ali Khiati, a member of the SUD union’s aviation section.

“There are people who have been waiting for an hour on the plane”, forcing the plane to remain grounded.

“When you arrive after an hour, you get yelled at by the captain, by the customers, when you only got the order five minutes before,” Khiati said.

“I feel the summer will be catastrophic,” he said, adding he had never seen anything like it in his 18-year career.

“A week ago, 21 people on the same day missed their plane. There were 16 who were leaving for Algiers, we put them in a (waiting area) — but there was so much work that the dispatcher forgot them,” he added. said .

Mary I. Bruner