Travel Chaos Could Get Even Worse This Summerby Daniel McCarthy /
Travelers and advisors alike have cheered the reopening of borders and the winding down of travel restrictions worldwide. Being able to travel as freely as consumers are right now, especially after the darkest moments of the pandemic, is something not many are taking for granted, a trend that’s showing up in data from the TSA and more.
However, the unleashing of that travel demand, coupled with a travel environment that hasn’t caught up yet, has created a chaotic environment for travelers both in North America and abroad.
Almost every single service sector worldwide has been struggling with staffing, but it goes even farther for the travel industry, which has been dealing with cancellations and delays so bad at several airports that USA Today called it “Travel Armageddon.”
It’s only expected to get worse this summer, especially in Europe. Several proposed union strikes are expected to continue to impact European travel during the busy summer season.
Industry voices last week shared some tips on how to beat the chaos, including not checking luggage and having margins before and after your trip to adjust. However, issues still persist. Here’s just some of what is left that could further the chaos this summer:
A number of European airlines have dramatically slashed summer schedules including British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa, and more. Lufthansa, by itself, has already cut just below 5% of its total capacity through August because of a worsening staff shortage. Others, including Aer Lingus, have also been forced to make moves because of local ATC strikes and staffing shortages from COVID-19 infections.
And it’s not just airlines, it’s also airports, which are struggling with staffing themselves.
London Gatwick, Amsterdam Schiphol, Dublin Airport, and more have all had to cut flights from their schedules, or placed a cap on their departures, because of staffing issues. The situation in Dublin is bad enough for the Irish Government to commit to keeping the country’s army on standby to help with security at the airport should the situation get any worse, according to the RTE.
The problems persist outside of Europe, as well. Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest, and Alaska have all announced plans to cut flights this summer. American Airlines has dropped service to four smaller, regional airports and United Airlines last week announced it was cutting about 50 daily flights from Newark International Airport, the carrier’s hub, starting July 1.
British Airways Strike July
Members of British Airways’ ground staff have planned a strike in July over pay disputes. The unions that represent the workers, the GMB and Unite, have both announced plans to strike during peak summer season and, as of this week, no movement has been made toward a resolution.
“Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption to BA’s services at Heathrow,” the Unite union said in a statement. “The company has a short window of opportunity to reinstate our members pay before strikes are called. I urge BA not to squander that opportunity.”
For right now, the strikes will only initially affect London’s Heathrow airport, but call center staff and other workers at the rest of the U.K. airports including Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester, and Newcastle are also considering taking actions, according to the BBC.
The unions are legally bound to give 14 days' notice ahead of action, so travelers will have some warning ahead of time.
Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports Strike
Unions representing workers at both of Paris’ major airports are set to go on strike starting June 30 and lasting until July 3. The workers are reportedly demanding improved pay and working conditions and have already been striking since the beginning of June, including one day when Charles de Gaulle was forced to cancel a quarter of its flights.
The workers are expected to demonstrate at locations in both airports, including Charles de Gaulle’s 2E and Gate 18, along with Orly’s Terminal 4, starting on July 1. Disruptions could last as long as July 4 and more disruptions and strikes could happen into mid-month.
Ryanair and easyJet strikes
Workers at two of the most-well-known European low cost carriers are also planning to strike this summer. Ryanair staff are expected to strike across a number of European countries in June and July – staff in Spain are reportedly walking out on June 30 and July 1 and 2, while Ryanair staff elsewhere already did so at the end of June.
easyJet workers are doing the same for nine days in July – July 1 to 3, 15 to 17, and 29 to 31.
SAS Pilot Strike
Pilots from Scandinavian airline SAS are in the midst of negotiations that have, so far, kept the schedule intact. However, close to 1,000 pilots for the airlines in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, could go on strike over wage issues soon if a deal is not reached. That could amount to 80% of all the pilots working for the carrier.
SAS is allowing travelers to rebook on similar flights should a strike happen over the next few days.