Europe airline strikes: what to expect this summer?

by Lorraine Williamson
europe airline strikes

MADRID – Europe airline strikes are expected to dominate summer travel for international tourists. Besides the fact that their flights may be delayed or cancelled, the experience at the airport itself can be chaotic. Furthermore, a lot of luggage is not taken along or is even lost. 

Therefore, the advice is to keep a close eye on the news. Strikes by pilots, cabin crew, ground crew, and customs personnel have resulted in cancelled flights or at least delayed flights. In addition, staff shortages are forcing airports to drastically reduce the number of scheduled flights to avoid further disorder. 

Currently, there are not enough pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, and other employees. Therefore, hundreds of flights are being cancelled every week. The shortage of skilled workers in the industry is estimated at some 7,200 skilled workers, according to Forbes. 

If you are going to fly, make sure you are at the airport well in time. Check your airline’s flight tracker for the current status and keep an eye on your e-mail and text messages. Most airlines inform passengers about last-minute cancellations or delays via these routes. If possible, take only hand luggage with you to avoid the queues and chaos at baggage claim. 

In this article, we provide a current state of affairs so that the traveller knows where he or she stands. However, please remember it’s a snapshot and things can change quickly. Therefore, we will update the information regularly. 

AIRLINES 

Ryanair 

Spanish Ryanair cabin crew have announced strikes for 12 days in July. It concerns July 12 to 15, July 18 to 21, and July 25 to 28. Employees want better working conditions. If there is no progress in the negotiations, they threaten to extend the strikes to August. The earlier strikes in June did not result in many cancelled flights in Spain. This was because the Irish company brought in staff from other countries to operate the flights affected by the strikes. 

So far, no strikes have been announced by British Ryanair staff. However, cabin crew from Belgium, Italy, France, and Portugal joined the strikes. 

See also: Is the end of cheap flights with Ryanair in sight? 

The Irish low-cost airline acknowledges that disruptions to the flight schedule may occur as a result of strikes and staff shortages at European airports. Passengers whose flights are affected by the strikes will in principle be notified by email and text message. If you want to see in real-time whether your flight is going, check Ryanair’s flight tracker. 

Easyjet 

Easyjet has meanwhile cancelled thousands of flights in the summer program to avoid the chaos as much as possible. Peter Bellew, COO of the British low-budget airline, resigned last Monday after the disruptions. The company says it has an “absolute focus on day-to-day operations”.  And is, therefore, taking preventive actions to build further resilience before the summer. 

If you want to know more about your flight, check EasyJet’s flight tracker. 

24-hour strikes of EasyJet Spain staff are scheduled for July 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 17, 29, 30, and 31. According to the USO union, the Spanish cabin crew has the lowest base salary of all European EasyJet hubs. The strikes will affect the EasyJet bases in Spain Barcelona, ​​Malaga, and Palma. 

SAS 

Last Monday, Scandinavian Airlines SAS cancelled 173 flights to avoid a pilot and cabin crew strike. Consequently, it concerned more than half of the flight schedule. According to the airline, the strike would also have forced them to cancel half of all scheduled flights. This would have affected some 30,000 passengers a day. 

Still, about 1,000 SAS pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden went on strike after negotiations between them and SAS over wages and working conditions failed. However, the striking pilots have offered to fly travellers stranded by the strike back home. This concerns passengers in remote destinations who have no alternatives than the plane to get back home. 

In the end, 61 charter flights with SAS from Scandinavia were cancelled. More than 10,000 passengers in various places in Europe were affected as a result. Check your flight status here. 

In the end, the company applied for a deferral of payment in the US because it can no longer handle the mountain of debt. 

Brussels Airlines 

The Brussels Airlines management is prepared to cancel 700 flights in the coming holiday weeks. That number corresponds to 6% of the summer schedule. According to the management of the subsidiary of the German Lufthansa, there are few other solutions in the short term. It is impossible in this sector to quickly hire additional pilots or cabin crew. 

After a three-day strike at the end of June, which cost the company several million euros, the unions thought they would get concessions. However, they did not come yet. Only when they threatened actions again did a conversation become possible. Although the cancellation of hundreds of flights again leads to even more losses. That while, according to experts, the patience of the Germans with their Belgian branch has now almost run out. 

However, the unions have stated that the 700 cancellations are not enough and that more needs to be done to ease the pressure on the airline’s staff. 

British Airways 

British Airways staff threatened to go on strike during the British school holidays in July. Fortunately, that strike was cancelled two days ago. An agreement was reached between the unions and the staff. Employees now receive more salary and a bonus after a one-time additional payment. A British Airways spokesman said he was very pleased the strikes were called off for both passengers and ‘our people’. 

However, the British airline is still cancelling 10,300 flights between July and October from London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, and City airports as part of the British government’s lock lighting program. These cancellations are added to those already announced, bringing the total for the summer to 13%. Check your flight status here. 

Air France 

Air France was forced to cancel 85 flights in one day as a result of the strike at Charles de Gaulle airport. Another strike last weekend was called off over an agreement on salary increases. 

KLM 

The Dutch KLM is cancelling 10 to 20 flights a day to European destinations until the end of August to get through the summer months due to the crowds at Schiphol. There also remains a brake on the sale of tickets on European routes. By limiting ticket sales, KLM wants to create space for customers whose flights are cancelled to be able to book. Click here for the KLM flight tracker. 

nederlandse orthopeed

Transavia 

The cabin crew of the low-cost airline of Air France-KLM, Transavia, threatens strikes this summer. Even after the company agreed to pay bonuses to the workforce to maintain labour peace. However, the basic wage has not been increased and is lower than the minimum wage for new staff recruitment. SNPNC, one of the airline’s cabin crew unions, has issued a strike warning until mid-September, according to spokesman Lionel Trovao, without giving any specific dates. Check your flight via the flight tracker. 

Lufthansa 

Lufthansa has said it will cancel about 1,000 flights in July due to staff shortages. In a recent open letter to its customers, the Lufthansa Group apologised for a large number of cancelled flights and noted that the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term. 

Admitting that “too many employees and resources are currently unavailable, not just at Lufthansa,” the airline predicts it probably won’t get any better before winter comes. Lufthansa mainly removes the cheapest tickets from the offer to make room for passengers whose flights have to be rebooked. Check the status of your flight here. 

Vueling and Air Europa strikes 

So far it seems that the Spanish airlines Vueling and Air Europa are avoidong the European air chaos. Vueling has had to cancel 69 flights in 15 days, disrupting just 0.7% of its schedule. For its part, the Globalia airline Air Europa has cancelled only 12 flights and is the second airline with the best data from the top ten. 

Vueling says it has the number of employees it needs to cope with the peaks in demand during the summer season. During the pandemic, the company has made use of the ERTE schemes, which have prevented staff from being laid off. This has enabled the airline to call in employees at the right time where necessary. Click here to check the flight status of your Vueling flight. 

AIRPORTS

Between June 24 and June 30, 400 flights were cancelled at UK airports. That is outside the summer high season, which is normally between July and early September. 

Heathrow 

London’s busiest airport, Heathrow, has asked airlines to cancel flights. The passenger numbers were above what the airport could handle. Some passengers were unaware that their flight had been cancelled while others complained about the long lines. 

Moreover, due to staff shortages at the luggage companies, many thousands of suitcases were not loaded or unloaded in time. Passengers filmed how airline staff got out of the passenger queues at security succeeded so that the flight could still fly on time and with sufficient passengers. 

Schiphol 

At the Netherlands’ largest airport, Schiphol, it has been chaos for weeks. Lengthy queues are the result of staff shortages and baggage does not get on or off the plane and hundreds of cancelled flights are the result. On July 8, de Dutch newspaper Volkskrant still ran a headline about ‘thousands of lost suitcases due to snowball effect’. According to insiders, about 16,000 suitcases are now roaming around the airport. Tracking down the rightful owners takes time and manpower and there is just none. 

Schiphol has decided to pay cleaners, baggage employees, and security personnel an extra €5.25 per hour in the summer. However, the airport has announced that it will further limit passenger numbers this summer to avoid further chaos and hundreds of cancelled flights. 

Hamburg 

Verdi, the German trade union, last week called on technical personnel at Hamburg airport to go on strike. The German government is trying to smooth things out by speeding up visas and work permits for thousands of airport workers from other countries, mainly Turkey. 

Paris Charles de Gaulle 

In France, at the largest airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle, a quarter of the flights were cancelled due to a staff strike. On Friday, July 1, ground crews laid down work in what was the first in a series of strikes expected to come, according to the French airport. 

In addition to asking for higher salaries, union activists in Paris urged airports to implement an emergency recruitment plan to reduce the workforce to pre-pandemic levels. 

Furthermore, a technical malfunction of the baggage-sorting system last week at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport caused many flights to depart without baggage, leaving more than 1,500 bags on the ground and affecting other flights even after the problem was resolved. 

To exacerbate the situation, the French aviation authorities cancelled 17% of flights from Paris airports last Friday and a further 14% on Saturday due to airport workers’ strikes repeated from 8 to 10 July to push wage demands, which will lead to further strikes. 

United States of America 

Also in the United States, air travel is not going as it should. Especially on the weekend of July 4 (the national holiday), problems arose with more than 12,000 delayed flights and hundreds of flights that did not go at all. The chaos became less from Monday. 

Italy 

Italian unions have also threatened further strikes this summer. Tracking possible strikes by Italian pilots and cabin crew of Ryanair, Malta Air, CrewLink, EasyJet, and Volota. Travelers in Italy already ran into problems when air traffic controllers went on strike in June. Hundreds of flights were cancelled as a result of the strike. 

Lisbon 

More than 100 flights to and from the Portuguese capital Lisbon have been cancelled this weekend. Thousands of passengers were stuck in long lines at the airport. The Portuguese aviation authority, ANA, says it has taken steps to support airlines, such as extra counters for rescheduling flights, but many families’ travel plans are already confused. Travellers have also complained about a lack of information from airlines about the disruption. 

This weekend’s delays are due to several factors. Some sources suggest that a private jet that burst a tire was to blame. Others blamed TAP airlines because airports like Faro, which have fewer TAP flights, did not experience chaos this weekend, despite rising visitor numbers. 

Spain 

In Spain, the busiest airports, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, and Malaga, have a shortage of police personnel. Therefore, more agents are being hired to cope with the renewed pressures after the pandemic and as a result of the reintroduced passport controls due to Brexit. 

The tourism alliance Exceltur has warned of delays at the airports of South and North Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Malaga, and Mallorca. The organisation says there will be “significant and major chaos” at these airports and that “urgent” action is needed at border controls to try to improve the situation. 

Exceltur’s vice president, José Luis Zoreda, attributes the chaos to the large number of tourists arriving at those airports, especially British tourists. Since Brexit, they have to go through passport control again and there is a shortage of staff there. 

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