Already under pressure due to staff shortages at airports, air traffic could be disrupted this summer with a record attendance in two years.
In March, air traffic experienced an unprecedented recovery in Europe since the pandemic began, with activity returning to two-thirds of levels before Covid. Theoretically good news for airports… Provided that they are able to deal with the influx of passengers.
Many large airports are actually on the verge of congestion. In Amsterdam-Schiphol, the weekend of May 1 was marked by endless queues, the cancellation of almost 70 flights by the national airline KLM and the postponement of other connections to the neighboring Rotterdam airport. The same queues were observed at many British airports at Easter, even at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle earlier in the week. From Orly’s point of view, the possibilities of the airport are not “I’m not overwhelmed“but already “under pressure”. “Even if the recovery was predicted, it is very strong”admits Orly International CEO Sandra Lignais who says “careful” for the situation.
The current difficulties of European airports are due to staff shortages, screams at reception, security or even baggage handlers. “The pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in airport resources and ground handling”recalls in a press release the director of the European Council of Airports (ACI Europe) Olivier Jankovec.
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Chaotic situation this summer?
Empty by disrupting commercial flights during months of health restrictions, airports and their subcontractors have reduced their staff. At the ADP (Aéroports de Paris), more than 1,200 departures took place in 2020 and 2021. “The redundancies were even higher in countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where partial unemployment did not exist or was less protective. They are now more affected by the lack of staff at airports. Some of their employees have definitely left the airline industry.remarks Xavier Titelman, an aeronautics consultant.
Launching urgently on huge recruitment campaigns, European airports continue to communicate their workforce needs. ADP CEO Augustin de Romanet talks about the 4,000 positions offered by his group and service providers in its Parisian locations. Among the most in-demand jobs at Paris airports are security guards and receptionists. In London, Heathrow also plans to hire 12,000 people for the summer, which promises to be very lively. At present, many jobs remain vacant in a context of labor market overheating.
“This summer, air traffic will peak and return to 80-90% of what it was before Covid”predicts Xavier Titelman who doubts that airports will be able to find enough employees to manage summer traffic and avoid the chaotic scenes they have already seen in the spring. “Most jobs require training for at least a month, even the least qualified. There is still some time left at the airports for recruitment from now and this summer. Everything will be decided now for the recruitment. “Otherwise, there is a fear that passengers will have complicated travel experiences with accumulation of waiting, delays, and even flight cancellations in an extreme scenario.”
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