Strikes and staff shortages have forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights to avoid hours-long queues at major airports, dashing hopes for a sizzling first summer following widespread COVID lockdowns with disruption set to continue into the autumn.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
After sweeping job and pay cuts when COVID-19 brought travel to a grinding halt, staff across the industry from pilots to baggage handlers are asking for big pay increases and better working conditions.
** Norwegian Air NAS.OL in June agreed a 3.7% pay rise for pilots among other benefits. Read full story.
** SAS SAS.ST and Ryanair RYA.I in July agreed terms with some unions representing their pilots, while British Airways ICAG.L and KLM AIRF.PA signed wage deals with ground staffers, as strikes affected hundreds of thousands of travellers in the key holiday period. Read full storyRead full storyRead full storyRead full storyRead full story
** Portuguese airports
Employees of Portugal’s 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 about 90 flights.Read full story
** Lufthansa LHAG.DE
Pilots at the German flagship carrier voted on July 31 in favour of industrial action. Their union VC is demanding a 5.5% pay rise this year for its pilots and automatic inflation compensation thereafter. On Thursday VC said pilots had rejected a wage offer and could go on strike at anytime. Read full story
** Ryanair RYA.I
Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew union members plan to strike from Monday to Thursday every week until Jan. 7 to press demands for higher pay and better working conditions. Read full story
Ryanair workers also caused disruption at many Spanish airports by walking out for several days in July, mainly at weekends.
** Easyjet EZJ.L
Easyjet’s pilots in Spain said they would strike for nine days in August from bases in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma in Mallorca. Read full story
However, cabin crew in the country suspended a strike planned for July 29-31 after reaching a deal with the company. The workers went on strike previously on July 1-3 and 15-17, causing some flight cancellations and delays. Read full story
** IAG ICAG.L
IAG low-cost airline Iberia Express has cancelled 92 flights after cabin crew union USO announced a 10-day strike starting Aug 28. Read full story
Airlines including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules to try and ease disruption, while major airports including London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol have extended caps on passenger numbers into autumn.
** Having previously cut its summer schedule and halted ticket sales for short-haul flights departing Heathrow until mid-August, British Airways said this week it would make further cancellations up to 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. Read full storyRead full story
** Schiphol has also extended its passenger cap through October. Read full story
** However, London’s Gatwick airport does not plan to extend existing limits on passenger numbers beyond the end of August as it has ramped up security staffing, while a Lufthansa board member has said the worst of the flight chaos was over for the German airline. Read full story
HIRING AND INCENTIVES
Industry executives say it is hard to recruit for often physically demanding, relatively low paid work at airports often located out of town. Training new hires and getting them security clearance also takes months.
** Schiphol, one of Europe’s busiest airports, agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security staff 5.25 euros ($5.50) extra per hour during the summer. It needed to hire 500 security staff after beginning the season with around 10,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic. Read full story
** Only around 150 airport workers from Turkey will be deployed at German airports, far fewer than initially expected. They will help with baggage handling under temporary contracts that will run through early November. Read full story
** Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Charles de Gaulle, offered a one-off 180 euro bonus to those delaying their vacation until after Sept. 15 and 150 euros for staff who sign up new recruits, a CGT union representative said.