European travel resumption hampered by airlines’ inability to prepare

Although Europe’s international travel scene initially appeared to be rebounding well in early 2022, the current state of air travel chaos seen at many European airports is likely to hamper the sector’s recovery, according to the leading data firm. and GlobalData analytics.

A (seemingly) unexpected tidal wave of consumer demand continued to swell in 2022, overwhelming unprepared airports and airlines around the world.


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Understaffing and other logistical challenges have led to a near-constant succession of flight disruptions, such as massive delays and cancellations, and ridiculously long queues and wait times at airports around the world. entire.

But Europe seems to be doing particularly badly. A few days ago, the Washington Post reported that the number of delays and cancellations in Europe was more than three times higher than in the United States, with some days reaching up to five times the amount.

“International departures from European countries are expected to reach 69% of 2019 figures in 2022, according to GlobalData forecasts,” said Hannah Free, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData. “While destinations are eager to welcome visitors, supply simply cannot meet demand following extreme staffing shortages and labor disputes, which have coincided with a rebound in international travel.”

In order to prevent the problems from worsening during the busy summer travel season, many airlines have strategically reduced their scheduled flight times to make the most of their limited staffing levels.

The entrance to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
The entrance to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. (photo courtesy of VanderWolf-Images/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)

“Airports like London Heathrow and Schiphol in Amsterdam have been forced to ask airlines to cut flights, while many carriers have had to preemptively cut their schedules by the thousands, affecting millions of holidaymakers,” Free said. “easyJet is said to have cut over 11,000 flights from its summer schedule. Meanwhile, British Airways has now canceled 13% of its summer schedule, following a statement on July 6, 2022, that the company will cut 10 Another 300 short-haul flights until the end of October 2022.”

The two airlines she mentioned cited their continued staff shortages as the reason for their reduced schedules. But, examining British Airways’ hiring trends, GlobalData noted that the carrier has failed to recruit enough staff to handle the resurgence in travel demand this summer. In November 2021, British Airways announced plans to increase its workforce by 15%, equating to around 4,000 new additions, including pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and back office staff.

Given, however, that the airline is believed to have cut around 10,000 jobs due to COVID-19, these efforts have fallen far short. And, according to hiring trend data from GlobalData’s jobs analytics database, British Airways did not increase the number of active job vacancies on its career pages until at least March. 2022. Too little, too late.

Chart of British Airways active vacancies from July 2021 to July 2022.
Graph of British Airways active vacancies from July 2021 to July 2022. (image via GlobalData)

Free added: “While this example relates specifically to British Airways, it should be stressed that this is an industry-wide problem with massive staff shortages, following cuts during the pandemic, causing major problems for several airlines. The interconnected nature of the tourism ecosystem – which sees hotels, airlines, car rental companies, tour operators, cruise lines and others dependent on each other throughout the traveler’s journey – means that disruption issues at any point in this chain have the potential to negatively affect others. Unfortunately, prolonged financial difficulties for a number of industry players are the corollary of the canceled flights.

In addition to staff shortages, several other factors have played a role in creating the current madness at European airports, including the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the resulting sanctions imposed on Russia, which almost immediately led to global supply chain issues. This, in turn, has contributed to record levels of economic inflation, which has led to a dramatic increase in the cost of living, which, taken together, is expected to hamper the resumption of international travel.

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