Crisis over staff shortages, overcrowding continues at European airports

GENEVA

While the number of airport staff across Europe is decreasing, the rise in the number of passengers and flights continues to make the travel of international passengers to the region an ordeal.

With the start of the holiday season, the mutually increasing international flights from the countries of the region since June have caused a crisis in many airports where the staff has been reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current employees are on strike.

There are long queues for ticket checks and baggage loading at the international airports of many countries, while long waits are experienced for baggage handling at the arrivals section.

No plane takes off from Brussels Airport for a day

Flight cancellations occur at airports where some personnel have been on strike for more than a month.

No passenger plane took off for a day due to the security guards’ strike at Brussels Airport in Belgium on June 20.

Since the security screening of passengers and luggage could not be performed, no departing flight from Brussels Airport could be performed. The airport could only provide services for arriving passengers and cargoes on that day.

The strikes of the employees of the airline companies also cause congestion at Brussels Airport, with flights either delayed or canceled.

Disruptions at Brussels and Charleroi airports due to Ryanair employees’ strikes since Friday have led to backlogs.

In mid-June, along with Ryanair, Brussels Airlines employees went on strike for three days, and more than 500 flights were delayed at Brussels Airport.

– 41.5% of flights delayed at Amsterdam Airport

Authorities at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport have been struggling to find a solution to the ongoing congestion at the airport since April.

Although the strike started by the ground handling officers of Royal Dutch Airlines KLM on the morning of April 23 has ended, the problem of accumulation, delay and loss of luggages at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport still remains unsolved.

Some of the flights at the airport are shifted to the surrounding airports in the cities of Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

In order to reduce the ongoing congestion, passengers with a flight of more than four hours are kept outside the airport, while the queues formed in the international departures section of the airport reach hundreds of meters.

On Wednesday, due to the malfunction of the luggage system at the airport, the tickets of thousands of passengers with luggage other than their cabin luggage were canceled, and luggage piles grew at the airport.

It was reported that 41.5% of the flights on the dates specified in Schiphol, which ranks fourth in the “most problematic airports” list created by CNN Travel according to the delays of flights between May 26-July 19, experienced delays.

– 250 baggage items cannot be handed over to owner at Zurich Airport daily

With the school holidays in Switzerland, many families rushed to travel abroad, as it disrupted the operation of the airports in the country.

At Zurich Airport, which was most affected by the flight density, 750 suitcases piled up in the baggage claim area on June 29-30 due to staff shortages and some flight cancellations.

In addition, due to the disruption in baggage services at the airport, an average of 250 luggage cannot be delivered to its owner every day, and as of now, more than 1,700 suitcases are waiting to be delivered to their owners.

Nathalie Berchtold, the spokesperson of the airline company Swissport, said in a statement that they would solve the problem by trying to deliver the luggage left at the airport to their owners via cargo.

– 2,000 flights canceled in Germany

German airline company Lufthansa Airlines announced that it canceled 2,000 flights from or to Frankfurt and Munich until the end of August.

The flight cancellations were caused by the shortage of airliners and airport staff. Lufthansa canceled more than 4% of its flights in June.

At Frankfurt International Airport, which reduced the number of employees by 4,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic, 7.8% of the flights expected to be made as of July were canceled, while 68% were delayed.

At the airport, where thousands of suitcases piled up, the management asked travelers to choose colorful and eye-catching luggage.

On the other hand, similar scenes were seen at Cologne-Bonn Airport, with long queues of passengers and stacked suitcases.

At least 9.5% of the flights made at the airport in June were canceled, and nearly half of the flights made during the summer season were delayed.

The German government, which wanted to close the staff gap at the airports, saw Turkish workers as a solution. With the bilateral agreement signed between Germany and Türkiye at the beginning of this month, the shortage of workers, especially in baggage purchase and transportation, is expected to be met.

However, it is stated that it may take weeks due to strict security controls in recruitment.

– Ticket sales restricted in the UK

At Heathrow Airport, which did not have enough staff to meet the increased international flights after the removal of the COVID-19 measures, the management failed to recruit the personnel quickly.

Nearly 700 British Airways staff working in Heathrow, mostly at ticket checkpoints, went on a strike at the beginning of summer due to the 10% salary cut introduced during the pandemic. The staff, whose salaries were increased by 8%, decided to end their protests on Friday.

Also, requests for improvement in the salaries of Aviation Fuel Services workers, one of the companies operating Heathrow, were accepted.

When the airport management could not meet the increasing demand with a small number of personnel, it demanded airline companies restrict ticket sales. The decision received a reaction, especially from Emirates Airlines.

– Strike in Italy cancels hundreds of flights

Many flights were canceled in Italy due to the four-hour strike on July 17 by some air traffic controllers’ unions and low-cost airline workers.

At the call of some unions in the country, in addition to air traffic controllers and ground officials at different airports, the staff of some low-cost companies such as Ryanair, Air Malta, Easyjet, and Volotea have gone on a strike on between Monday 2 pm (1200GMT) and 6 pm (1600GMT).

Hundreds of flights have been canceled and some flights have been delayed due to the four-hour strike across the country.

* Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara contributed to this story.

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