Europe's Travel Disruption Stretches

By Dave Simpson
Europe's Travel Disruption Stretches

Strikes and staff shortages forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights to avoid hours-long queues at major airports in the first northern hemisphere summer following widespread COVID lockdowns, and some disruptions still persist as the end of 2022 nears.

Here is a summary of some of the developments:


After job and pay cuts when COVID-19 halted travel, staff across the industry from pilots to baggage handlers are asking for big pay increases and better working conditions.

** Hundreds of workers at London's Heathrow airport walked out for three days over demands for better pay in the run-up to the soccer World Cup in Qatar.

** Finland's flag carrier Finnair cancelled about 100 flights leaving Helsinki airport on Nov. 20-21 due to cabin crew strike.


** Pilots at Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings striked for three days from Oct. 17 over working hours.

** In September, Lufthansa and pilots' union VC reached a deal in a wage dispute, averting a second strike after the first one forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

** Labour union FNV said on Oct. 6 that Amsterdam Schiphol airport offered security workers a pay rise of 20% on average to try to solve ongoing staff shortages. Schiphol, one of Europe's busiest airports, has grappled with long passenger queues for months and has cut capacity due to the lack of security staff.

** European flights faced widespread disruption on Sept. 16 as a French air traffic controllers' strike forced airlines to cancel half of those scheduled to arrive or depart Paris airports and others due to have flown over France.

** 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.


** SAS and Ryanair agreed terms with pilots in July, while British Airways and KLM signed deals with ground staffers. Norwegian Air in June agreed a 3.7% pay rise for pilots.


Airlines, including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air, cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules to ease disruption, while major airports capped passenger numbers.

** Schiphol said on Sept. 29 it would reduce daily passenger numbers by around a fifth until at least March 2023, as it struggles to solve a shortage of security staff.

** London's Heathrow, which lifted its 100,000 daily passenger limit at the end of October, ruled out capping passenger numbers for the Christmas peak. Its CEO on Nov. 21 said the numbers would not be capped in summer 2023 either.

** British Airways said on Aug. 22 it would reduce its winter schedule by 8%, impacting around 10,000 flights.


** London's Gatwick airport lifted cap on passenger numbers at the end of August after it ramped up security staffing, while a Lufthansa board member said on Aug. 7 the worst of the flight chaos was over for the airline.


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.

** Lufthansa said on Nov. 21 it planned to hire 20,000 new employees mainly in product-related and service-oriented areas.

** Schiphol agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security staff 5.25 euros 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.

** Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Paris' Charles de Gaulle, offered a one-off 180 euro bonus to those delaying their summer vacations and 150 euros for staff who sign up new recruits, a CGT union representative said.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.