Europe’s summer travel chaos will only get worse.
Now that travel demand is back to 2019 levels and most countries have removed entry rules, Europe as a whole is failing to handle higher passenger numbers amid reports of reduced airport staff. In Italy, the situation is particularly concerning, as operators have just announced strikes over summer, casting shadows over the vacations of millions.
On Wednesday (June 8), several air traffic controllers walked out of their posts for a full 24 hours, seriously disrupting travel to and from Italy and other European countries. The move brought to a halt airport operations in major Italian hubs, leading carriers like ITA Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair to ax a number of flights.
Unfortunately, this could be replicated in the (much busier) summer months as passenger numbers increase:
Strike Causes Several Flights To Be Cancelled Across Italy
Earlier this week, millions of travelers faced disruption in Italy after unionized air traffic controllers went on strike. The situation was only aggravated when unions then called on workers from certain budget airlines, such as Ryanair, to join the strike for four hours, resulting in hundreds of delays and cancellations.
According to UIL Trasporti, the actual Union behind the strike, a whopping 360 flights were axed and 4,000 passengers directly impacted. Those scheduled to fly with Ryanair were most affected, as both UIL Trasporti and FILT-CGIL, another worker’s Union, urged a four-hour strike for the company’s workers in Italy.
Their main complaints were centered on cuts to pay linked to on-board sales and tough labor conditions endured by Ryanair staff. The company, Europe’s biggest budget airline serving hundreds of destinations in the continent and beyond, later denied that its crew took part in the strikes – even though their flight scheduled was affected.
According to a spokesperson, the delays and cancellations customers suffered are linked to air traffic controllers walking out. At least 14 flights set to depart from Milan were grounded, with London-bound passengers bearing the brunt of it. Ryanair has apologized for the inconvenience, but maintained that strikes are beyond their control.
Fellow low-cost carrier EasyJet also blamed their multiple Wednesday cancellations on Italy’s controllers walking out. Passengers scheduled to fly to Bologna, Milan, Naples, Rome and Venice all had their long-anticipated summer vacation ruined. ITA Airways experienced similar disturbances, but managed to re-route most of its passengers to avoid the strike.
Disruptions To Continue All Through Summer
While air operations have since resumed, the Unions involved continue to list poor pay conditions for their action, as well as ‘arbitrary reductions of paychecks, the non-payment of sick days, the company’s refusal to grant leave during the summer season, and the lack of water and meals for the crew’.
Signalling they will call more strikes in the upcoming months if an agreement is not reached soon, an UIL Trasporti spokesperson conceded that ‘this will be only the first of a series of protest actions that will make the summer hot‘. Regretfully, it is unlikely airports – and airlines – will manage to overcome their current challenges in the short-term.
Airports in Europe are already struggling badly due to being understaffed at a time when passenger numbers are soaring, and a vast majority of European hubs predict a chaotic summer ahead. With the possibility of further strikes ahead, this will only worsen the 2022 aviation crisis, even after Covid is gone.
Expect Travel Delays In Italy In The Next Few Weeks
Over summer, snaking queues and overwhelmingly busy departure halls will be a common sight across Europe, as the industry goes on a hiring spree to try and save the first post-Covid tourist season. In total, 191.000 aviation workers were made redundant during the pandemic, making it virtually impossible for airports to fill in all gaps before summer starts.
Italy may have fully lifted all pandemic-related restrictions on June 1, again allowing foreigners to visit regardless of vaccination status, but vacationers may now have more pressing issues – other than Covid – at hand. If you’re flying to Italy soon, check the status of your flight before proceeding to the airport and get insured for cancellations before traveling.
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