Traveling to Europe in summer? Consider this | Business | Economic and financial news from a German perspective | DW
European airports are once again inundated with travellers. This is even before the start of summer holidays in many countries.
With most pandemic-related restrictions lifted, people are heading to their dream destinations, eager to make up for lost travel opportunities over the past two years – a phenomenon that’s been described as a “revenge trip”.
The surge in demand represents a massive reversal of fortunes for the aviation industry which has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus-induced lockdowns, losing more than $230 billion (219 billion euros) in 2020, airlines representing the bulk.
However, the rapid rebound has also brought fresh headaches for the beleaguered industry, which, bewildered by the rapid recovery, is struggling to muster enough staff to cope with the influx of travelers at airports.
Staff shortages and bottlenecks at airports have led to long queues and waiting times for passengers at major European hubs like Frankfurt, Dublin and Amsterdam and hundreds of flight cancellations, threatening to damage the recovery of the industry.
“With governments turning around and policy shifting, there was uncertainty until the last minute, leaving little time to restart an industry that had been largely dormant for two years,” Willie said. Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). A declaration.
“Journey of Revenge”
Total demand for air travel in April, measured by revenue passenger-kilometres or RPK – which counts the number of kilometers flown by revenue passengers – soared nearly 80% compared to April 2021, driven by an increase in travel international, IATA said. He added that demand on several routes, including Europe/Central America and Middle East/North America, was above pre-pandemic levels.
“People now have confidence that they will have the classic city experience with dining, entertainment, etc. without having to worry about COVID-19 restrictions,” said Axel Hefer, Managing Director and General Manager of the Trivago booking platform, at DW.
Strong demand coupled with high jet fuel prices and fewer planes in the skies as many planes grounded during the pandemic sit idle, has driven airfares up. But that doesn’t seem to be deterring people with wanderlust and forced pandemic-era economies from taking trips.
“After a long period of abstinence, vacations are at the top of Germans’ wish list this year – even rising energy costs and rising inflation cannot affect this desire,” said Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV). DW. Fiebig said on the contrary that people were spending more on holidays this year “by booking longer holidays and choosing better quality”.
Airport traffic jams led to the cancellation of several hundred flights
Airlines are struggling to capitalize on the rush
This comeback was meant to be good news for airlines, which have bled billions of euros in cash over the past two years and have been eagerly awaiting this moment. But the overwhelmed airports came as a shock absorber.
Earlier this month, German flag carrier Lufthansa canceled around 900 domestic and European short-haul flights for July at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs. Lufthansa’s unit, Eurowings, is also cutting several hundred flights.
“It is foreseeable that flight schedules cannot be carried out as hoped due to bottlenecks,” a Lufthansa spokesperson told DW. “As a result, we had to preemptively cancel flights to relieve the system and get our customers to their destination on time or to allow connecting flights.”
Other airlines, including Lufthansa rival Air France-KLM and discount carrier Wizz Air, have also been hit by staff shortages at airports, where peak demand is approaching on pre-COVID volumes. -19.
Where is the airport staff?
Aviation industry struggles to recruit workers after being forced to downsize during the pandemic; their plight compounded by the post-pandemic tendency for people to become extremely picky about employment, avoiding roles with poor working conditions and low pay.
“The German labor market continues to be very tight. Job seekers can choose from a large number of vacancies, while employers are struggling to fill vacancies,” a spokesperson told DW. of Frankfurt airport operator Fraport. “In addition, the recruitment process at airports is particularly complex and time-consuming. This is due to the fact that many operational activities in aviation take place in safety-relevant and restricted areas.”
Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), the German air navigation service provider, says that while it has managed to retain its staff during the pandemic thanks to support from the German government, it has not been able to train the number of employees he would have liked due to the pandemic restrictions.
“Staff planning is not only proving very difficult, but it is also reaching the limits of what is possible,” DFS spokesman Fabio Ramos told DW.
The situation in Germany was also affected by the launch of a new air traffic control system by the French air navigation service provider, which caused additional and unplanned traffic to move into the country, Ramos said.
“The closure of airspace in Russia and Ukraine is also shifting traffic to Germany. In addition, the war in Ukraine is causing a huge increase in military air traffic in Germany,” he added.
Risks revive travel
Given the disruptions at airports, travelers are recommended to arrive at the airport 2-2.5 hours before even their domestic flight, preferably to check-in online and ensure that their carry-on baggage are properly packaged to avoid delays at security checkpoints.
“The latter in particular has a huge effect, as we always find that processing times and therefore waiting times at the checkpoint are considerably longer because many unauthorized items are transported, liquids are not separated or cleared to the checkpoint itself, and other regulations are not being followed,” Swedish security services group Securitas, which provides screening services at airports, told DW.
Despite bottlenecks and staff shortages, the industry expects to ride the wave of “revenge trips”. But travelers should be prepared for inconvenience.
“There’s a significant number of trips that are just necessary because otherwise you would go crazy, or your kids would go crazy, or both,” Hefer of Trivago said. “Travelers expect this to be the best summer of their lives, but labor shortages could prevent them from having the experience they dreamed of.”