(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. [nL8N2XX1LQ].
Scandinavian carrier SAS and Ireland’s Ryanair in July agreed terms with some unions representing their pilots, while British Airways and KLM signed wage deals with ground staffers, as strikes affected hundreds of thousands of travellers in the key holiday period.
Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew union members plan to strike four days a week until January to press demands for higher pay and better working conditions, the USO union said on July 27. The strike action, also backed by Sitclpa, will take place from Monday to Thursday every week from Aug. 8 to Jan. 7.
Ryanair workers also caused disruption at many Spanish airports during July, when they walked out for several days, mainly on weekends.
Lufthansa’s ground staff went on strike on July 27, prompting the cancellation of nearly all its flights from its Frankfurt and Munich hubs, more than 1,000 flights in total. The German flagship carrier said there could be a few more cancellations and delays on July 28-29.
Labour union Verdi had called for the walkout, due to run until 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) on July 28, over its demand for a 9.5% pay hike for around 20,000 workers and warned more industrial action could be on the cards.
Spain-based cabin crew at Easyjet 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 set to strike again between July 29-31.
** SAS pilots on July 19 ended their 15-day strike, which had grounded 3,700 flights, affected 380,000 passengers, and put the carrier’s future in doubt.
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.
London’s 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.
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, Bernadette Baum and Milla Nissi)