Two-thirds of European airports expect flight delays and cancellations to continue this summer

Airlines have been hampered by staff shortages, slow recruitment and a sharp rise in demand for holidays

Lucy Thackray
Monday 09 May 2022 12:09 BST
<p>Holidaymakers waiting at Barcelona El Prat airport</p>

Holidaymakers waiting at Barcelona El Prat airport

Airport and flight delays will likely continue through this summer and beyond, a European airports organisation has warned.

Research by the European airports association ACI Europe, released on Thursday, found that two-thirds (66 per cent) of the continent’s airports expect flight delays to increase, while more than one third say operations will be affected by staff shortages during summer and beyond.

One in six airports expect increased flight cancellations due to the clash between high demand and airline staff shortages.

Airlines and airports across the UK, Ireland and Europe have had their recovery hampered by lack of staff, slow recruitment and a sharp rise in demand for holidays in recent months.

The report found that passenger traffic at the continent’s airports during March had represented -34.3 per cent of usual levels, a strong recovery from -51.1 per cent in January 2022.

ACI Europe and the ASA say the delays are caused by Europe’s airports “coming out of the Covid-19 crisis with depleted resources as they have been forced to lay off staff due to the collapse in air traffic”, also pointing to the “extremely tight labour market across Europe”.

The director general of ACI Europe, Olivier Jankovec, mentioned a slump in air traffic due to the cancellation of flights into and out of Ukraine, as well as Russia.

He said: “For airports in the rest of Europe, the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions not just on the continent but also increasingly for intercontinental travel bodes very well for the summer season.

“The immediate challenge is to manage the sudden surge in traffic given that the pandemic left airports and ground handlers with hugely depleted resources. This now requires re-staffing in what is a very tight labour market across Europe.

“What’s more, the time required by national security clearance procedures for airport staff combined with training requirements simply make it impossible to adjust overnight. All this, combined with traffic being much more concentrated over peak periods, is putting significant strain on the entire aviation system as we strive to recover.”

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport was the latest to be hit with long queues and delays last week, while customers at Manchester, Dublin and Birmingham have all suffered in recent weeks.

The Unite union’s national officer, Oliver Richardson, told Euro News: “The industry is very much reaping what it has sown.

“Not only has the existing economic model been incapable of delivering decent and sustainable jobs, but this has been compounded by the behaviour of some employers who during the pandemic opportunistically slashed jobs and cut pay and conditions.”

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