Passengers face chaotic journeys as flight disruption sweeps Europe


Marivi Wright’s “vacation from hell” started when Air France’s laptop methods went down and employees needed to verify in passengers on her flight from New York to Europe by hand.

She missed two connecting flights as she flew by way of Paris to Spain to go to her 83-year-old mom, touchdown in Malaga 12 hours late. Her baggage was nowhere to be seen.

“My mum has dementia and this was my time to sit with her to go through pictures,” mentioned Wright, explaining that these have been within the lacking bag. “I spent time buying clothes at the airport or filling claims . . . That’s time with my mum that I’ll never get back. I’m emotionally drained,” she added.

Wright is considered one of hundreds of thousands of passengers who’ve endured a chaotic summer season getaway as flight cancellations and disruptions have swept throughout Europe.

The issues stem from persistent employees shortages throughout many components of the aviation business, together with airways, airports and ground-handling corporations, that are subcontracted to supply providers together with check-in and baggage dealing with.

Passengers wait close to an data display at Rome’s Fiumicino airport throughout a strike by employees. Outbreaks of commercial motion have added to the business’s issues © Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

As journey restrictions have been lifted and plenty of deliberate their first journeys in two years, demand has rebounded quicker than the business has been in a position to rent new employees.

Outbreaks of commercial motion have added to the issues, together with a pilot strike on the Scandinavian airline SAS that contributed to it submitting for chapter this month.

“There are problems right across airports in Europe,” mentioned Akbar Al Baker, chief government of Qatar Airways. “We face the same problems in France . . . Belgium, Holland, Germany. Actually it’s an epidemic.”

Passengers have additionally endured unquantified delays, queues and misplaced baggage because the business has been unable to deal with the sheer variety of passengers.

Nikolas Syrimis spent 12 hours inside Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport this week, together with two-and-a-half hours in “insanely long” queues, after his easyJet flight was cancelled due to runway harm within the excessive temperatures at London Luton airport.

“Even with all the headlines, seeing it for yourself is nothing like I have ever experienced,” he mentioned.

US airways and airports have additionally suffered bursts of disruption as they’ve ramped up over the previous 12 months, however Europe has emerged because the epicentre of journey disruption this summer season.

And even when operations don’t break down, hours-long waits to maneuver by way of European airports have turn into commonplace.

Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2
Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester airport’s Terminal 2 on Friday, the place queues snaked exterior and previous the automobile park © Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP

On Friday, queues snaked exterior Manchester airport and previous the automobile park, the place passengers ready to depart described “organised chaos” in addition to shock at being made to face exterior within the rain.

Major hub airports together with London Heathrow and Frankfurt have compelled airways to chop their schedules to restrict overcrowding, and Dutch service KLM on Thursday informed passengers transferring by way of Schiphol to not attempt to verify in baggage after a breakdown within the baggage methods.

The overwhelming majority of passengers will, finally, get to their vacation spot. But busy airports with complicated operations and little leeway to reschedule delayed flights have suffered a number of the most vital disruption.

Brussels Airport has been the worst in Europe for delays, with 73 per cent of flights delayed this month, based on information compiled by on-line reserving firm Hopper. London Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Frankfurt have been within the prime 10 worst, with greater than half of flights delayed.

One in 50 flights departing from European international locations has been cancelled within the final week, together with 680 flights departing from Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain — 3 times the quantity in the identical interval in 2019, based on information supplier Cirium.

Passengers wait by check-in desks during pay-related strike action by EasyJet Plc and Ryanair workers at El Prat airport in Barcelona, Spain
Passengers wait by check-in desks throughout pay-related strike motion by easyJet Plc and Ryanair employees at El Prat airport in Barcelona, Spain © Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

Smaller European airports have been extra resilient, partly due to the relative simplicity of their operations. Gran Canaria, Alicante and Malaga in Spain have been all within the 10 finest performing airports, with lower than a fifth of flights struggling delays.

Pauline Kennedy, who’s retired, contrasted her “amazing” expertise arriving at Manchester airport together with her departure from Amsterdam, the place she mentioned there have been queues for every little thing. “I think finally, Manchester’s got its act together,” she mentioned.

Airports in tourism-dependent economies, the place holding journey flowing is a nationwide precedence, have additionally carried out higher.

At Athens International Airport, Elisabet Chousiades mentioned she breezed by way of the terminal and picked up her baggage immediately after flying in from the US.

Tourism is important to the Greek financial system, producing 1 / 4 of GDP when oblique contributions are included. Tellingly, Athens airport administration turned to a authorities help scheme to maintain all 800 of its employees employed in the course of the pandemic, in addition to a lot of the 8,000 subcontracted employees who work in floor dealing with and safety.

“We didn’t fire anyone, we wound down the operation and had people work 50 per cent,” mentioned Yiannis Paraschis, its chief government.

With the height summer season journey interval starting as faculties break up and households set off on their annual trip, the aviation business is getting ready for the strain to rise even additional. Europe’s greatest airline Ryanair has mentioned it deliberate to fly extra passengers this 12 months than in 2019.

There are additionally indicators that operations are recovering, and disruption has eased as carriers and airports enhance their operations and get extra employees to the frontline.

Cancellation charges within the UK fell from 3 per cent within the first week of June to 1.2 per cent in the identical interval this month, whereas in France they fell from 2.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent, based on information firm OAG.

But that’s little comfort to the passengers who’ve endured lengthy delays, irritating cancellations whereas watching gadgets of baggage go lacking.

Marilou Le Lann mentioned her baggage disappeared on a layover in Paris whereas on a journey from Turkey to Montreal final weekend. “I have about $30,000 worth of stuff in my luggage — designer bags, shoes, stuff like that,” she mentioned.

She continued: “The reason we went to Turkey is that my partner had hair transplant surgery and he had the medicine for his transplant in the luggage. This is now being jeopardised because we don’t have all the products he needs.”

Additional reporting by Claire Jones in Frankfurt