Europe is facing a summer of airport chaos, with thousands of passengers reporting long queues, delays, and dozens of cancellations in many top tourist destinations.
After two years of coronavirus anxiety and oppressive rules, thousands of tourists are traveling again this year, facing unprecedented conditions at most European airports.
Airports and airlines are facing severe staff shortages, forcing them to reduce the number of scheduled flights – often at short notice.
Meanwhile, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association, the pent-up travel demand is likely to see global air passengers hit 83 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
However, the large wave of tourists has also resulted in widespread chaos at airports, while at the same time, there are several problems related to luggage losses and damage.
Strikes are also being recorded at several airports, with airline workers demanding better wages to cope with the increase in price hikes and cost of living. Passengers are reporting chaotic scenes in most European airports and long queues.
Ryanair, EasyJet, and Scandinavian airline SAS are among the companies that faced extended worker strikes, with security agents, ground crews, baggage handlers, and other airport workers spurred into industrial action to secure better wages and more staff.
“Delays and cancellations everywhere. Why? Because there’s no staff. Why? Because conditions and pay have been lowered for over a decade,” said Eoin Coates, head of aviation at the European Transport Workers’ Federation, in a tweet.
Due to the staff shortages that Lufthansa was dealing with, the flag carrier of Germany is expected to limit the sales of flight tickets to create a more stable flight schedule.
“Lufthansa has implemented numerous measures and is recruiting additional staff wherever possible to ensure the greatest possible stability of the flight schedule and thus offer its passengers the best possible planning security,” Lufthansa told Reuters.
15,000 flight cancellations in August
According to Citrium, a global flight airline analysis firm, airlines have canceled 25,378 flights from their August schedules, of which 15,788 are in Europe.
The latest data from Citrium point out that Turkish Airlines is the company responsible for the most significant number of canceled flights in Europe, with 4,408 cancellations. British Airways follows with 3,600 cancellations, EasyJet with 2,045, Lufthansa with 1,888, and Wizz Air with 1,256.
European airports, however, are facing horrendous delays, leaving passengers anxious and confused.
As pointed out by Hopper Inc, the Goldman-backed online travel agency, the worst 10 European airports for delays is Brussels Airport, Frankfurt International Airport, Eindhoven Airport, Luton Airport, Liszt Ferenc International Airport, Lisbon Airport, Charles De Gaulle Airport, Schiphol Airport, Cote D’Azur Airport and Gatwick Airport.
The UK launches aviation charter
The British government has launched a new “Aviation Passenger Charter” to help travelers know their rights and what to do if they are confronted by cancellations, delays, or missing baggage.
“Passengers deserve reliable services and to be properly compensated if things don’t go to plan, and the chaotic scenes we’ve seen at airports are unacceptable,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“The new charter will help to give UK passengers peace of mind as they enjoy the renewed freedom to travel, whether for holidays, business or to visit loved ones. Our passenger charter builds on our 22-point plan to support the industry in backing holidaymakers and keeping disruption to a minimum this summer”.
Official and experts share their advice
UK travel expert Simon Calder told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the chaotic scenes in European airports were being exacerbated by anxious passengers turning up hours early for their flights.
“It sounds absolutely mad, but an awful lot of these queues are people who have got a flight at 10 am turning up at 5 am,” he said.
This means that passengers who arrive hours earlier at airports create queues, to which are added the travelers who arrive within the timeframe specified by their airlines.
Following the widespread disruptions, some airports have advised passengers such as arrive early, prepare their liquids and laptops for security checks before getting to the airport, and ensure passports are up to date.
For instance, Manchester Airport has launched an advertising campaign urging passengers to arrive three hours before their flights and no earlier.
“The airport is asking passengers not to come any earlier than this because they will not be able to check in with their airlines, which could cause unnecessary waits in the terminals,” said Ian Costigan, the airport’s Interim Managing Director. “Rejected bags and trays can add, on average, an additional 12 minutes to a person’s security process, which multiplied by the thousands of passengers flying through soon adds up to lengthy delays that can easily be avoided,” he added.
Travel experts and most European airports are confident that security queues will improve over the next few months. They are optimistic that delays and flight cancellations will soon be eliminated.
In countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Spain, an ongoing chaotic disruption causes anxiety and concern to passengers. On the other hand, in countries such as Greece, Cyprus, and Austria, there are no significant delays or chaotic scenes with long queues and passengers. However, there are problems because of delays from other countries.
How high-tech and AI can help
One strategy to cope with flight delays is the increased use of high-tech monitoring technology designed to help airports and airlines run more efficiently.
InteallAct, an Israeli startup, has developed artificial intelligence (AI) software system which allows airlines, airports, and ground handling teams to address turnaround services performance bottlenecks, minimize delays, and transform precious ground time into airtime.
“Our Artificial intelligence monitors turnaround services in real-time and alerts relevant stakeholders when actual performance is slower than expected, or when safety violation is detected,” the company highlights.
“The idea came while I was visiting a European airport that suffered from a low number of flights and was interested in increasing the volume, and hence the number of passengers in its airport,” says IntellAct chief executive Udi Segall to BBC.
“When I asked the airport’s head of operation what it would take to increase the volume of flights, he replied that if the airport could offer a shorter connection time, it would attract international airlines to the airport,” says Mr. Segall. “Shorter connection time depends primarily on managing the turnaround process effectively, which is the origin of the idea to build an AI-based solution to monitor turnaround services.”
Similarly, other startups are also investing in developing software and applications that can eliminate the organization and operation procedures of airports and contribute to reducing flight delays and passenger waiting for it.