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Expectations, delays… European airports overwhelmed as summer approaches

Already under pressure from the lack of staff at airports, air traffic could be disrupted this summer with a record number of visitors over two years.

In March, air traffic in Europe experienced an unprecedented rebound since the start of the pandemic, with activity returning to two-thirds of pre-Covid levels. In theory good news for airports… Provided they can handle the influx of passengers.

Indeed, several major airports are on the brink of congestion. At Amsterdam-Schiphol, the weekend of May 1 was dominated by endless queues, the cancellation of almost 70 flights by the national airline KLM and the postponement of other connections to the neighboring airport of Rotterdam. The same queues were seen at several UK airports at Easter, and even in Roissy-Charles de Gaulle at the start of the week. On the Orly side, the airport’s capacities are not “not overwhelmed“but already “under pressure”. “Even if the recovery was foreseen, it is very strong”admits the director of Orly International, Sandra Lignais, who says: “carefully” on the situation.

The current difficulties of European airports are due to the lack of staff, shouting at reception, security or even the baggage handlers. “The pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline in airport and ground handling resources”recalls Olivier Jankovec, director of the European Airports Council (ACI Europe) in a press release.

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Chaotic situation this summer?

Cleared by the cessation of commercial flights during the long months of health restrictions, airports and their subcontractors have reduced their staff. More than 1,200 departures took place at ADP (Aéroports de Paris) in 2020 and 2021. “There were even more redundancies in countries like the Netherlands and the UK where partial unemployment did not exist or was less protective. They are now most affected by the lack of staff at airports. Some of their employees have left the aviation industry for good.notes Xavier Titelman, aviation consultant.

European airports have urgently launched extensive recruitment campaigns and continue to communicate about their labor needs. The CEO of ADP Augustin de Romanet speaks of 4,000 functions offered by his group and the service providers on its Paris sites. One of the most in-demand jobs at Paris airports is security guards and receptionists. In London, Heathrow is also planning to recruit 12,000 people for the summer, which promises to be very lively. For the time being, many vacancies remain vacant in a context of an overheated labor market.

“This summer, air traffic will peak and return to 80-90% of what it was before the Covid”predicts Xavier Titelman who doubts that the airports will manage to find enough employees to manage the summer visitors and avoid the chaotic scenes that can already be seen in the spring. “Most jobs require at least a month’s education, even the least qualified. Between now and this summer there is still some time at the airports to recruit. Everything will now be decided to recruit. Otherwise, it is feared that passengers will have complicated travel experiences with accumulation of waiting times, delays and even flight cancellations in an extreme scenario.”


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