As flights continue to be canceled across Europe and passengers endure hours-long waits at security checkpoints, many frustrated travelers wonder when this so-called “travel chaos” will end.
One German official now has a unique idea that may not end travel delays, but it could alleviate them to some degree.
“There are measures that companies, which bear some of the responsibility for their own staffing shortages, can take,” Maximilian Kall, spokesman for Germany’s Interior Ministry, said earlier this week according to the Associated Press.
“For example, they could open ‘fast lanes’ for all travelers and end the privileged treatment a few passengers get,” Kall said. “They also could smooth out their flight schedules and prevent peak loads.”
Why There Are Travel Delays
The problem in Europe, and around the world, for that matter, is that when travel was halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines and airports laid off scores of employees. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted and people are traveling again, however, airlines and airports find themselves short-staffed.
“Some airlines are struggling because I think they were hoping to recover staffing levels quicker than they’ve able to do,” Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association, said, according to the Times Union.
In the meantime, laid-off aviation workers “found new jobs with higher wages, with more stable contracts,” Joost van Doesburg of the FNV union, which represents most staff at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, said, Times Union reports. “Now everybody wants to travel again,” but workers don’t want airport jobs.
Consequently, officials at London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports are asking airlines to cap their flight numbers, and officials at Schiphol, the busiest airport in the Netherlands, are trimming flights because there currently are thousands more airline seats each day than security staff can handle, Times Union continues.
And in Sweden, the lines for security checkpoints at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport have become so long that some passengers have started to arrive more than 5 hours before boarding time in hopes they will make their flight. Unfortunately, that practice led to even more congestion, so officials now turn away travelers who have arrived more than 3 hours before their flight, according to Times Union.
Taking Corrective Steps
Passenger complaints and airport requests aren’t necessarily falling on deaf ears. For instance, Carsten Spohr, chief executive at German airline Lufthansa, apologized to employees and customers alike earlier this week for travel chaos caused by labor shortages.
“We certainly made mistakes while saving our company and more than 100,000 jobs over the past two years,” Spohr wrote in a letter to employees, according to Reuters. “Did we go too far in cutting costs here and there, under the pressure of the more than 10 billion euros [$10.6 billion] in pandemic-related losses? Certainly, that too.”
Now Lufthansa has announced it will cancel more than 2,000 additional flights this summer at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs due to staff shortages, according to DW, the German international broadcaster. The news comes less than 2 weeks after Lufthansa said it would cancel 900 flights in July.
Although Lufthansa’s actions may provide some short-term relief, company officers don’t expect Lufthansa’s flight operations to return to normal anytime soon.
“Unfortunately, we will hardly be able to realistically achieve a short-term improvement now in the summer,” Lufthansa board member Detlef Kayser told Die Welt (DW) newspaper. “We expect the situation to return to normal by 2023.”
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