Why increasingly air journey chaos

(CNN) – Now is the summer of our displeasure, Shakespeare doesn’t exactly write in “Richard III,” but for American and European air travelers, that’s exactly what this summer is defining. Figure.

Flights are disappearing from schedules – some last-minute flights due to airlines failing to provide services for which travelers have spent significant amounts of money, often in the hope of getting their first flight. after many years. More than 1,500 flights was canceled in the US alone this past Saturday and Sunday, and the US is entering a busy holiday weekend on July 4.
Delta Air Lines has cut about 100 flights per day from its schedule in July to “minimize disruption” and issued a July 4 traveler waiver because it was ramping up passenger traffic “unseen since before the pandemic.Air Canada said it will cancel up to 10% of flights in July and August, about 150 flights a day.

At airports, the sight of passengers queuing out of terminals or camping in departure halls is increasingly familiar as security, check-in and immigration delays add to the chaos.

Passengers have been requested appeared even earlier to make their flight, and then add to the confusion, ask again to appear not too soon. “Please note that you are only greeted at the departure hall 4 hours before your flight,” Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport advised this week.

And then there’s the baggage issue. At London’s Heathrow Airport, photos showing huge piles of bags being ripped from their owners have become emblematic of the experience of many airliners facing frustration trying to get their money back. lost property or wait days to be reunited with them.

There is no quick fix

Airports and airlines have struggled to replace trained workers who have been let go during the pandemic.

Airports and airlines have struggled to replace trained workers who have been let go during the pandemic.

Image of Chandan Khanna / AFP / Getty

All in all, air travel is a nightmare – even a gamble – right now. And the high season has just begun.

Obviously there is no quick fix. This week, German airline Lufthansa warned passengers in an email that the situation was “unlikely to improve in the short term”, insisting stability would only be achieved in winter.

“Too many staff and resources remain unavailable, not only in our infrastructure partners but also in some regions of our own,” it said. “Almost every company in our industry is hiring new people right now, with several thousand planned in Europe alone.”

Even if the problem is primarily airport-related, it can also mean delays and cancellations. Dutch carrier KLM was recently forced to cancel all flights to Europe to Amsterdam, apparently because of the crowdedness of the airport.

So what’s happening? Much of commercial aviation is pretty much practically rocket science, but a host of problems airlines and airports are facing are not. Instead, it’s a much more mundane business problem: personnel.

And the airline industry should have seen it happen.

‘No surprise’

Crowds and queues at airport terminals are becoming a feature of air travel in the summer of 2022.

Crowds and queues at airport terminals are becoming a feature of air travel in the summer of 2022.

Stephane Mahe / Reuters

“Between their own research, research my company and others have conducted, and their booking systems, airline executives should see – and therefore should know – that there is strong demand for travel again,” said Henry Harteveldt, principal at market research and consulting firm Atmosphere Research.

“Either they didn’t review their own data, or misread or misinterpreted it, but none of this should surprise airlines.”

In most cases, the problem is that too many experienced people have been let go during the pandemic – fired or voluntarily laid off – and airlines, airports and other key parts of The aviation system was not hired and in capacity. enough people to replace them.

That’s the important level point. Since airlines and airports know all too well, there is a whole process involved to get someone a security card that allows them to work on the plane or at the airport gate.

In the UK, there is also the fact that they cannot attract the group of European Union workers after Brexit.

There’s also often some rather complicated training involved in actually doing the job, especially since the interface of many air travel computer systems seems more like home in the 1980s than it is. in the modern iPhone or Android world.

Addison Schonland, partner at aviation analytics and reporting company AirInsight, summarizes the potentially affected areas as “any part of the air travel system that has no staff.”

“It’s easy to fire people, it’s hard to get people back with the right security in place,” Schonland said. “US airlines in particular are also notoriously unreliable employers – the boom and bust cycles mean career woes – plus the job requires skilled people and are on probation. These people now have more attractive options.”

Some of the problems are around outsourcing too much.

Recipe for Interruption

Rows of bags separated from their owners at London Heathrow Airport have become a symbol of the troubles of air travel today.

Rows of bags separated from their owners at London Heathrow Airport have become a symbol of the troubles of air travel today.

Takuya Matsumoto / Yomiuri Shimbun / Reuters Connect

At many airports, especially in Europe, key tasks such as check-in, security, baggage, border crossing and airport operations are performed by employees working for third-party companies without Contracted airlines and airports. You’ll often see them in bland uniforms that don’t look like your airline’s staff.

These guys do the real hard work in some cases – like lifting bags outside in the snow and sun, working before dawn and late at night, and dealing with increasingly frustrated passengers.

Some of it is also a real question of industrial relations.

During the pandemic, for example, British Airways asked some employees in the UK to take a 10% pay cut. Some workers were subsequently given a raise, but not the check-in staff at Heathrow, who are now willing to go on strike to be admitted. British Airways said it was disappointed with the move and hoped to find a way to avoid it industrial action.

No matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on, it’s a recipe for disruption.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration is facing problems due to a lack of air traffic controllers, said Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research.

“Health-related restrictions have limited the FAA’s ability to hire and train new air traffic controllers in 2020 and 2021,” he said. “Plus, air traffic controllers are required to retire at age 56, and the calendar doesn’t stop for those two years.

“The FAA is actively recruiting people to become air traffic controllers, but the training takes time. Meanwhile, airlines schedule more flights to some destinations, especially Florida, than the FAA does. can undertake.

“So even in good weather, the FAA sometimes has to offer some longer flights, with fewer non-stop routes which can lead to delays, to ease the burden on their air traffic control centers. .”

So how to make flyers?

The best advice I can give you as an airline journalist who has never seen this much disruption is to book with caution.

Consider alternatives to air travel, if your journey can be in under eight hours by train, boat, bus or car. If you’re not traveling with people who have to return to school in the fall, consider a trip in September or October instead of July or August.

– If you have to fly, choose direct flight through connecting flights where available and affordable. Connections add complexity and increase the risk of dropouts or delays, especially those across places that can experience extreme weather issues in the summer.

— In Europe, choose smaller centers with a reputation for efficiency and no major disruptions recently reported: Munich, Zurich and Vienna are the safest bets.

Choose an earlier flight of the day not later – that means more options for same-day travel in the event your flight is canceled or significantly delayed. Tight connections – anything less than a few – should be avoided if possible.

Choose airlines that offer multiple flights per day on a single route than those with only one or two.

Research other options on the route. If you arrive on the day and there are thunderstorms in Dallas or Houston, can you ask the airline agent to transfer you over to Chicago, Philadelphia or Dulles?

– Some airlines offer fast and secure check-in, lounge access and priority boarding as an add-on, and it’s a better deal than ever. Or in America, consider TSA trước Pre-Test. Log in to your bookings every few weeks to see if discounted upgrade options are available: This is a great time to spend comfortably and enjoy quick benefits.

Join your airline’s frequent flyer program. Not only will you get some mileage, but most rebooking systems will favor frequent flyers in some way – even those with low mileage balances. Alternatively, use the airline’s app, which will make any plane rebooking easier.

– In case the reset options in the app do not work, phone calls or social media might work. Airlines often respond to direct messages via Twitter. The platform is also great for airline, airport or even weather updates.

Bring light and choose to bring only if you can. If you need to check your bags, keep a few days’ worth of clothes and any essentials in your luggage. Bring snacks, chargers, and load up your device with TV and movies. And bring with you the most important thing this summer – and any time you’re traveling: patience.

Good luck and feel free to ask questions on Twitter, where you can find me as @thatjohn.

Top image: Passengers stand in the TSA check line at Orlando International Airport, May 3. Source: Kirby Lee/AP

Aviation journalist John Walton specializes in writing about the passenger experience. With over a decade of experience in aircraft, seats, cabins, connectivity, digital, design, marketing and branding, he has a unique perspective on what makes the industry the greatest. developed world. He can be found on Twitter at @thatjohn.

Leave a Comment