(Reuters) – Strikes and staff shortages are forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and causing hours-long queues at major airports, dashing hopes for a sizzling first summer following widespread COVID-linked lockdowns.
Here is a summary of some of the key developments:
After sweeping job cuts and pay cuts when COVID-19 brought travel to a grinding halt, staff across the industry from pilots to baggage handlers are asking for big pay increases and better working conditions.
Norwegian Air in June agreed a 3.7% pay rise for pilots among other benefits, in a sign of what other airlines may have to offer to avoid labour strife.
Hundreds of British Airway staff based at Heathrow voted on July 22 to call off strike action after accepting a pay offer.
The day before, a three-day strike by refuellers at Britain’s busiest airport was suspended after the employees received a revised offer, a labour union said.
** French airports
French unions said on July 19 they had reached wage accords for ground staffers after three months of negotiations. The agreement will result in a more than 6% salary increase for some lower salary ranges, while higher-level jobs will see an increase of around 1% to 5%.
** SAS AB
SAS and pilot unions reached a wage deal on July 19, ending a 15-day strike that grounded 3,700 flights and put the carrier’s future in doubt.
The airline, which filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on the second day of the strike, said the industrial action had cost it more than $145 million and affected 380,000 passengers.
The Dutch arm of Air France KLM and unions said on July 14 they had come to a collective labour agreement after weeks of unrest. The agreement includes a two-step pay increase totalling 4% for ground crew with a minimum monthly increase of 80 euros ($80.5) before tax in each phase.
More than 130,000 passengers could be affected from a one-day walkout scheduled on July 27 by Lufthansa’s ground staff. The German flagship carrier said it would cancel over 1,000 flights scheduled for that day, and that there could be a few more cancellations and delays on July 28 and 29.
Ground staff said they would stage the one-day strike for a 9.5% pay increase. The strike will run from 3.45 a.m. (0145 GMT) on July 27 until 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) on July 28.
Ryanair said on July 21 it reached a five-year agreement with labour unions representing pilots in France and in Spain. The agreements include a return to pre-COVID salaries and “allow wage improvements and other benefits beyond the full return to salaries for Ryanair pilots based in France and in Spain,” the airline said.
Spain-based cabin crew at Easyjet in Spain announced plans to go on strike for nine days in July, demanding a 40% increase in their basic salary which is much lower than in countries such as France and Germany, local union USO said. They are also set to strike again between July 29-31
REDUCED SUMMER SCHEDULES
Airlines, including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Wizz Air, have cut thousands of flights from their summer schedules to cope with the disruptions, while major airports have also taken steps to limit traffic.
On July 18, flights to and from Britain’s London Luton airport were temporarily disrupted after soaring temperatures caused a defect in its runway, prompting airlines to delay or divert their planes.
Heathrow on July 12 asked airlines to stop selling tickets for summer departures, after it capped the number of passengers travelling through it at 100,000 a day to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations.
The British government launched an “Aviation Passenger Charter” on July 17 to help passengers know what to do if they are confronted with cancellations, delays or missing baggage with guidance on how to complain if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
HIRING SPREE AND INCENTIVES
Airports and airlines are scrambling to hire more workers from pilots to security and border control staff and baggage handlers after many left during the COVID-19 crisis.
Industry executives say it is hard to recruit for often physically demanding, relatively low paid work at airports often located out of town. Training new hires and getting them security clearance to work at airports also takes months.
** Schiphol agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security staff 5.25 euros ($5.50) extra per hour during the summer.
One of Europe’s busiest airports needs to hire 500 security staff. It currently has 58,000 workers at and around the airport, 10,000 fewer than before the pandemic.
** Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris need to fill 4,000 jobs mainly in security, maintenance and travel retail, according to airport operator Groupe ADP and the CDG Alliance.
More than 20,000 people were laid off at Charles de Gaulle during the pandemic, according to the CGT union.
Airport security company ICTS, which operates at Charles de Gaulle, is offering a one-off 180-euro bonus to those delaying their vacation until after Sept. 15 and 150 euros for staff who sign up new recruits, according to a CGT union representative.
** Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest hub, has rehired nearly 1,000 ground services employees after cutting about 4,000 during the pandemic, but will continue to see disruptions due to lack of workers in the next two or three months, its operator Fraport has said.
Germany plans to fast-track work permits and visas for several thousand foreign airport workers, mainly from Turkey, to help to ease the travel chaos.
According to the ADV airport association, about one in five jobs in security, check-in and aircraft handling is unfilled at German airports.
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(Reporting by Klaus Lauer in Berlin, Juliette Portala and Caroline Paillez in Paris, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Paul Sandle in London and Reuters bureaus; Compiled by Boleslaw Lasocki, Antonis Triantafyllou, Tiago Brandao and Marie Mannes in Gdansk; Editing by David Evans and Bernadette Baum)