Travel plans to or across Europe?  Get ready for long lines

Travel plans to or across Europe? Get ready for long lines


Passengers wait in long lines outside the terminal building to check-in and board flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

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Passengers wait in long lines outside the terminal building to check-in and board flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Peter Dejong/AFP

LONDON – Do you have European travel plans this summer? Don’t forget to pack your passport, sunscreen and lots of patience.

Arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport 4½ hours before her flight to Athens, Liz Morgan found the security line creeping from the building to a large tent along a road before doubling back inside the main building.

Morgan, who is from Australia, tried to save time on Monday by checking in online and only taking a handbag.

“People couldn’t get to the toilet because if you got off the queue, you lost your place,” she said.

After two years of pandemic restrictions, demand for travel is rising again, but airlines and airports that cut jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. As Europe’s busy summer tourism season begins, passengers face chaotic scenes at airports, including extended delays, canceled flights, and headaches due to lost baggage.

Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands’ busiest, is reducing the number of flights, saying there are thousands of airline seats per day above capacity for security staff. Dutch carrier KLM has apologized for stranding passengers there this month.

London Gatwick and Heathrow require airlines to specify their flight numbers. Discounted easyJet is canceling thousands of summer flights to avoid last-minute cancellations and in response to hats off at Gatwick and Schiphol. North American airlines have written to Ireland’s chief transport officer asking him to take urgent action to address “significant delays” at Dublin Airport.

Nearly 2,000 flights from major continental European airports were canceled one week this month, and Schiphol accounted for nearly 9%, according to data from aviation consultancy Cirium. Cerium said another 376 flights were canceled from UK airports, of which Heathrow accounts for 28%.

It’s a similar story in the US, where airlines canceled thousands of flights over two days last week due to bad weather as tourist numbers swelled in the summer.

“In the vast majority of cases, people are traveling,” said Julia Le Bui Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Group, which represents around 350 travel agents in the UK. But airports are understaffed, and security clearances for newly hired workers are taking longer to process.


Departure board with canceled flights in the departure hall of Brussels International Airport during a general strike in Brussels, Monday, June 20, 2022.

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Departure board with canceled flights in the departure hall of Brussels International Airport during a general strike in Brussels, Monday, June 20, 2022.

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“They all create bottlenecks in the system,” she said, which also means “when things go wrong, they go wildly wrong.”

The Biden administration’s cancellation of COVID-19 tests for people entering the United States gives an additional boost to pent-up demand for transatlantic travel. Bio Said said travel agents representing her group reported a jump in US bookings after that requirement was scrapped this month.

For American travelers to Europe, the dollar’s appreciation against the euro and the British pound is also a factor, as it makes paying for hotels and restaurants more affordable.

At Heathrow, a sea of ​​unclaimed baggage covered the floor of the terminal last week. The airport blamed technical glitches in the baggage system and asked airlines to cut 10% of flights at two terminals on Monday, affecting about 5,000 passengers.

The airport said “a number of passengers” may have traveled without their luggage.

When cookbook writer Marlena Spiller flew back to London from Stockholm this month, she took three hours to get past passport control.

Speller, 73, spent at least another hour and a half trying to find her luggage in the baggage area, which was a “crazy house, with piles of bags everywhere.”

She almost gave up, before discovering her bag on a carousel. She has planned another trip to Greece in a few weeks but she is afraid to go to the airport again.

“Honestly, I’m afraid for my safety. Am I strong enough to withstand this?” The player said by e-mail.

In Sweden, security queues at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport were so long this summer that many passengers arrived more than five hours before boarding. So much is emerging so early that officials are turning away travelers who arrive more than three hours before their flight to ease congestion.

Despite some improvements, the line to one of the checkpoints extended more than 100 meters (328 feet) on Monday.

Four young German women, afraid of missing out on their Hamburg flight while waiting to check their bags, asked the other passengers if they could jump to the front of the line. Once there, they purchased fast-track passes to avoid the long security queue.

Lena Weil, 19, said she hadn’t seen the same level of chaos at other airports, “not like that, I think,” before she rushed onto the fast track.


Passengers wait in long queues to check-in and board their flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Peter Dejong/AFP


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Peter Dejong/AFP


Passengers wait in long queues to check-in and board their flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Peter Dejong/AFP

Thousands of pilots, cabin crew, baggage handlers and other airline industry workers have been laid off during the pandemic, and now there aren’t enough of them to handle the travel recovery.

“Some airlines are struggling because I think they were hoping to restore staffing levels faster than they can do,” said Willie Walsh, president of the International Air Transport Association.

Walsh said at the annual meeting of the commercial airline group this week in Qatar that the staff shortage after the pandemic is not unique to the airline industry.

“What makes it difficult for us is that many jobs cannot be operated remotely, so airlines have not been able to offer the same flexibility to their workforce as other companies,” he said. “Pilots have to be present to operate the plane, the cabin crew has to be present, and we have to have people loading bags and helping the passengers.”

Joost van Doesburg of the FNV union, which represents most employees at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, said the laid-off airline workers “have found new jobs with higher wages and more stable contracts”. “Now everyone wants to travel again,” but workers don’t want jobs at airports.

The CEO of low-cost airline Ryanair, Europe’s largest, has warned that flight delays and cancellations will continue “throughout the summer”. Passengers should expect a “less-than-satisfying experience,” Michael O’Leary told Sky News.

Some European airports have not had major problems so far but are preparing. Klara Devskova, spokeswoman said that Vaclav Havel International Airport in Prague expects passenger numbers to swell next week and until July, “when we see a shortage of staff, especially at the security check.”

It added that the airport was still short of “dozens of staff” despite a recruitment campaign launched at the beginning of the year.

Business dispute also causes problems.

In Belgium, Brussels Airlines said a three-day strike starting Thursday will result in the cancellation of about 315 flights and affect about 40,000 passengers.

Two days of strikes hit Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport this month, one by security staff and one by airport staff who say salaries are not keeping pace with inflation. A quarter of flights were canceled on the second day. Some Air France pilots threatened a strike on Saturday, warning that crew fatigue was threatening flight security, while airport staff vowed another pay-related strike on July 1.

However, Jan Pezdek, a spokesman for the Czech travel agency CK Fischer, which has sold more holiday packages so far this year than before the pandemic, said that however, airport problems were unlikely to prevent people from flying.

“What we can see is that people can’t stand waiting to travel after the pandemic,” Bezdik said. “Any problems at airports can hardly change that.”

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