European travel disruption set to continue into late summer
(Reuters) – Strikes and staff shortages have forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights to avoid hour-long queues at major airports, dashing hopes of a scorching first summer after widespread lockdowns of COVID with disruptions expected to continue through the fall.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
After sweeping job and wage cuts when COVID-19 brought travel to a halt, staff across the industry, from pilots to baggage handlers, are demanding big pay rises and better working conditions.
** Norwegian Air in June agreed to a 3.7% pay rise for pilots, among other benefits.
**SAS and Ryanair agreed terms in July with some unions representing their pilots, while British Airways and KLM signed pay deals with ground staff as strikes affected hundreds of thousands of travelers during the key period holidays.
Employees of the Portuguese airport handling company Portway began a three-day strike on Friday at its main airports in Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Funchal, forcing the cancellation of around 90 flights.
The pilots of the German flag carrier voted on July 31 in favor of a strike. Their VC union is demanding a 5.5% wage increase this year for its pilots and automatic inflation compensation thereafter. On Thursday, VC said the pilots had rejected a pay offer and could strike at any time.
Members of Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew union plan to strike from Monday to Thursday each week until January 7 to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
Ryanair workers also caused disruption at many Spanish airports by marching for several days in July, mainly at weekends.
Easyjet pilots in Spain said they would strike for nine days in August from bases in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma in Mallorca.
However, the country’s cabin crew suspended a strike scheduled for July 29-31 after reaching an agreement with the company. Workers went on strike on July 1-3 and July 15-17, causing flight cancellations and delays.
Low-cost airline IAG Iberia Express has canceled 92 flights after cabin crew union USO announced a 10-day strike starting August 28.
Airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air have cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules in an attempt to reduce disruption, while major airports including London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol have extended the number of passengers until the fall.
** After previously slashing its summer schedule and halting ticket sales for short-haul flights from Heathrow until mid-August, British Airways announced this week that it would be making further cancellations until the end of October after the airport extended its cap on passenger departures. It will also reduce its winter schedule by 8%, impacting around 10,000 flights.
**Schiphol has also extended its passenger cap until October.
**However, London Gatwick Airport does not plan to extend existing limits on passenger numbers beyond the end of August as it has beefed up security staff, while a board member from Lufthansa said the worst of the flight chaos was over for the German airline.
Industry executives say it’s difficult to recruit for often physically demanding and relatively low-paying jobs at airports that are often out of town. Training new hires and getting them security cleared also takes months.
** Schiphol, one of Europe’s busiest airports, agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security guards an additional 5.25 euros ($5.50) per hour over the summer. He had to hire 500 security guards after starting the season with about 10,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic.
**Only around 150 Turkish airport workers will be deployed at German airports, far fewer than originally planned. They will help with baggage handling under temporary contracts that will run until early November.
** Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Charles de Gaulle, has offered a one-time bonus of 180 euros to those who delay their holidays after September 15 and 150 euros to staff who take on new recruits, a representative said CGT union.
(Reporting by Klaus Lauer in Berlin, Juliette Portala and Caroline Paillez in Paris, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Paul Sandle in London and Reuters offices; Compiled by Boleslaw Lasocki, Antonis Triantafyllou, Tiago Brandao and Marie Mannes in Gdansk; Editing by Milla Nissi , Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan)
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