The chaos of summer travel in Europe
(Reuters) – Strikes and staff shortages are forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and causing hour-long queues at major airports, dashing hopes of a scorching first summer after widespread lockdowns linked to COVID.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
After job cuts and sweeping pay cuts when COVID-19 halted travel, 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, as a sign of what other airlines might have to offer to avoid labor disputes.
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 over the key holiday period .
** Portuguese airports
Portuguese civil aviation workers threatened on August 1 to strike from August 19 to 21. Two unions representing workers have accused airport operator ANA, which runs 10 airports in Portugal, and French group Vinci, which controls ANA, of making multimillion-euro net profits but failing to pay decent wages to workers.
The pilots of the German flag carrier voted on July 31 in favor of a strike. The board member of the VC pilots union said the vote did not necessarily mean a strike would take place and that they were ready to negotiate.
VC is asking for a 5.5% pay rise this year for its pilots and automatic inflation compensation thereafter. Lufthansa’s CEO said Aug. 4 that the airline had set dates to negotiate with pilots the following week.
On August 4, the airline reached an agreement with its ground staff, after a strike on July 27 forced it to cancel more than 1,000 flights. The agreement provides for a salary increase of 200 euros per month from July 1 this year, plus an increase of 2.5% or at least 125 euros per month from January 1 next year and additional 2.5% from July 1, 2023.
Members of the Spanish cabin crew union at Ryanair plan to strike four days a week until January to demand higher wages and better working conditions, the USO union said on July 27. The strike, also supported by Sitclpa, will take place from Monday to Thursday. every week from August 8 to January 7.
Ryanair workers also caused disruption at many Spanish airports in July, when they were out for several days, mainly at weekends.
** Easy jet
Spanish Easyjet pilots said on July 29 that they would strike for nine days in August. Pilots will strike from bases in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma in Mallorca.
Meanwhile, Spain-based cabin crew have suspended their strike scheduled for July 29-31 after reaching an agreement with the company. Workers went on strike in July, first from July 1-3 and then from July 15-17, leading to flight cancellations and delays for the low-cost airline.
REDUCED SUMMER HOURS
Airlines including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules to cope with the disruption, while major airports including London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol capped passenger traffic. However, on August 7, a Lufthansa board member told German media group Funke that the worst was over for the German airline when it comes to flight chaos.
British Airways has halted ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow until mid-August, following the airport’s decision to limit capacity. The airline’s website showed no tickets for flights before August 16 to popular European destinations including Paris, Milan and Amsterdam.
On August 2, Schiphol extended the passenger cap it introduced earlier to deal with long wait times and other logistical issues in September and October.
RECRUITMENT AND INCENTIVES
Airports and airlines are scrambling to hire more workers, from pilots to security and border control staff and baggage handlers after many left during the COVID-19 crisis.
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 to work at airports also takes months.
**Schiphol has agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, porters and security guards an additional 5.25 euros ($5.50) per hour during the summer.
One of Europe’s busiest airports needs to hire 500 security guards. It currently has 58,000 workers in and around the airport, down 10,000 from before the pandemic.
** Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris need to fill 4,000 jobs mainly in security, maintenance and travel retail, according to airport operator Groupe ADP and Alliance CDG.
More than 20,000 people were made redundant at Charles de Gaulle during the pandemic, according to the CGT union.
Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Charles de Gaulle, is offering a one-time bonus of 180 euros to those who delay their holidays after September 15 and 150 euros for staff who take on new recruits, according to a CGT union representative.
** Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest hub, has rehired nearly 1,000 ground service workers after cutting around 4,000 during the pandemic, but will continue to see disruption due to lack of workers over the next two or three months, its operator Fraport said.
Germany plans to fast-track work permits and visas for several thousand foreign airport workers, mostly from Turkey, to help ease travel chaos.
According to the airport association ADV, around one in five jobs in the field of aircraft security, check-in and handling are unfilled at German airports.
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(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 David Evans , Bernadette Baum, Milla Nissi and Louise Heavens)