After two years of lockdowns due to the pandemic, travel demand has returned with a vengeance, but airlines and airports that have cut jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up.
LONDON (AP) – Do you have plans to travel to Europe this summer? Don’t forget to bring your passport, sunscreen and a lot of patience.
Liz Morgan arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport 4.5 hours before her flight to Athens, finding the security check line leaving the terminal for a large tent along the road before returning back to the main building.
“There are elderly people in the queues, there are children, babies. No water, nothing. No signage, no help, no toilets,” said Morgan from Australia, who tried to save time on Monday by checking in online and taking only hand luggage with him.
People “couldn’t get to the toilet because if you got out of line, you lost your seat,” she said.
After two years of lockdowns due to the pandemic, travel demand has skyrocketed, but airlines and airports that have cut jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. With the European summer travel season in full swing, passengers are facing chaos at airports, including lengthy delays, flight cancellations and headaches due to lost baggage.
Schiphol, the Netherlands’ busiest airport, is slashing flights, saying thousands of airline seats a day exceed the capacity that security staff can handle. Dutch carrier KLM has apologized for delaying passengers this month.
London airports Gatwick and Heathrow are asking airlines to limit the number of flights. Discount carrier easyJet is canceling thousands of summer flights to avoid last-minute cancellations and in response to Gatwick and Schiphol restrictions. North American Airlines wrote to Ireland’s chief of transport demanding urgent action be taken to address “significant delays” at Dublin Airport.
About 2,000 flights from major airports in continental Europe were canceled in a single week this month, with Schiphol accounting for almost 9%, according to aviation consultancy Cirium. Another 376 flights were canceled from UK airports, Cirium said, of which 28% were at Heathrow Airport.
It’s a similar story in the United States, where airlines canceled thousands of flights in two days last week due to bad weather as summer tourist crowds mount.
“In the vast majority of cases, people travel,” says Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Group, which represents about 350 UK travel agencies. But airports are understaffed, and it takes much longer to process clearances for new employees, she said.
“They all create bottlenecks in the system” and it also means that “when something goes wrong, they go…