Hundreds of flights canceled: Flight chaos threatens during the summer holidays

The personnel shortage at airlines and airport service providers is huge.

Hundreds of flights canceled: Flight chaos threatens during the summer holidays

The personnel shortage at airlines and airport service providers is huge. From passenger control to aircraft handling to cabin crew, there is a shortage of employees who have looked for new jobs during the pandemic. If you want to fly in the summer holidays, you should bring a lot of patience to the airport.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe's airlines and airports have longed for normality. After a good two years of pandemic, this normality is returning, there is a real rush for flights - and the whole industry is completely overwhelmed by it.

This was impressively demonstrated on the Pentecost weekend: hours of waiting in airports, many flights were cancelled, thousands of passengers were stranded abroad. The reason: there is a lack of staff - in every nook and cranny.

During the pandemic, when aviation had almost come to a standstill at times, many of the employees had looked for a new job of their own accord or were laid off. Now there is a lack of employees in security checks and aircraft handling, and flight attendants are also in short supply. Now the staff is being increased again. But this is taking much longer than planned.

The customers of the Dutch KLM were hit particularly hard at Pentecost. Due to significant problems at the Amsterdam hub Schiphol, the airline canceled a number of flights. More than 40 machines flew back to Amsterdam empty to relieve the airport. Passengers were either sent home or had to stay in hotels. The chaos had become apparent: In May, KLM had temporarily restricted ticket sales in order to have capacity for rebooking. At times, the queues at Schiphol extended to the entrance to the airport.

The British Easyjet reacted to the staff shortage with a radical measure. The rear row of seats on the Airbus A319 aircraft in the aircraft based in Great Britain will be removed this summer. This means that there are six fewer seats, meaning a maximum of 150 passengers can fit on the plane. The safety requirements will then make it possible to use only three flight attendants instead of the previous four.

The industry has apparently completely underestimated the need to catch up after the long corona restrictions. Despite the Ukraine war and record inflation, many people finally want to travel again. Even without a wave of travel, there are always long queues at German airports. It doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon.

This can be seen, for example, at Fraport. The Frankfurt airport operator had cut around 4,000 jobs during the crisis and also unexpectedly lost ground staff, who have now taken on more attractive jobs. The company plans to hire 1,000 new employees this year. Finding more than 100 new people a month is almost impossible, says Fraport boss Stefan Schulte.

This is not only due to the empty labor market in the region, but also to the high security requirements. In Hesse, the so-called reliability check by the aviation security authority can take up to six weeks. Anyone who has lived abroad for more than six months in the last five years must overcome a particularly large hurdle, i.e. either submitting a European certificate of good conduct or a certificate of exemption from punishment from the relevant country. For many migrants, this is a considerable organizational effort that takes a lot of time and threatens to fail due to the respective bureaucracy.

Across Germany, many employees have migrated to logistics, says Thomas Richter from the Association of Ground Handler ABL. The result: staff shortages. "Across all locations, the service providers involved in handling passengers are missing around 20 percent of the ground staff compared to the pre-Corona period. This can lead to bottlenecks, especially at check-in, when loading suitcases and at air security checks at peak times," says the general manager of the airport association ADV, Ralph Beisel.

Chaotic conditions threaten at German airports in summer. As a precaution, Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings are cutting the flight schedule in the holiday month of July and removing more than 1,000 flights from the system. The Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss is also canceling flights to and from Germany in the summer timetable.

The summer holidays are approaching; in North Rhine-Westphalia they start in less than three weeks. As a precaution, the head of Düsseldorf Airport asked the passengers to be patient. The measures he announced to cushion the lack of staff at the service providers give a foretaste of the coming travel experience for many holidaymakers: a dedicated airport team is to help the airline service providers load their luggage. Service employees at the airport should distribute water at the baggage carousels during long waiting times. In the terminal, student assistants are supposed to guide passengers to checkpoints that are less burdened. In order to speed up the security check, they should remind the passengers beforehand, for example, to take off their jackets, open their belts and have electronic devices at hand.

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