European airports are collapsing, Prague is holding on. Yet
Hourly queues for check-in and security checks are already a reality at many European airports. Prague Airport is still holding on, but the numbers are against it. The lack of airport and airline staff is to blame, combined with the possibility to travel without coronavirus restrictions for the first time in two and a half years.
The airlines have spent the last two years downgrading and convincing passengers that air transport is completely safe even during a pandemic. They probably had no idea how unprepared they would be for the day when interest in air travel would really return.
As countries reopen their borders and abandon covid restrictions, interest in travel has returned with unexpected vigor. This revealed an unprecedented shortage of workers in the sector. The main culprit is the pandemic redundancies of thousands of workers, from pilots to on-board and ground staff. more of them are not in the mood to return. “In the meantime, these people have found work in another field. They often found out that they do more in their new job and their work is less stressful, “says Miroslav Polach from Zaletsi.cz.
They are not people
“All airports and airlines are currently short of staff,” he told Bloomberg Geoff Culbert, CEO of Sydney Airport, where almost half of the 33,000 employees lost their jobs during the covid. “We’re not as attractive a place to work as we used to be,” admits Culbert.
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The worst situation has been at Amsterdam Airport for a long time, where several-hour queues starting long before entering the terminal building appeared in early spring. “KLM is trying to help as much as it can – for example, by limiting ticket sales on the most exposed dates or canceling flights at the last minute, whenever the airport gets into trouble,” says Polach. Passengers will certainly not enjoy these practices and the airline has to pay them bold compensation.
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and London Heathrow are also facing serious problems. The latter last week forced airlines to cancel 15 percent of the years, as a shortage of staff was compounded by a total failure of baggage sorting software. Some airports, such as Amsterdam and London’s Gatwick, have already limited passenger numbers during the summer months to handle check-in on time.
Prague Airport seems unprepared for the sharp start of the summer season, which will arrive this week with the beginning of the summer holidays. It has fewer employees than three years ago, while travel agents expect a record number of passengers.
Even in 2019, Prague Airport had about 2.8 thousand employees, today it is 600 fewer employees. At the same time, travel agencies expect an even greater influx of holidaymakers this year than three years ago. “We record record sales, which are currently higher at Čedok than before the pandemic. Sales for May are up to six times higher than in 2019, with the start of the main summer season and holidays, demand is even higher, “says Kateřina Pavlíková, spokesperson for Čedok.
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Prague is currently trying to hire at least 200 employees to better cope with the summer onslaught. “Prague Airport launched a recruitment campaign in January, which covers the largest volume related to the safety of workers as well as other professions,” said Airport, which recently sent departure instructions to passengers and now appeals to arrive at the airport at least 2.5 hours before departure in the case of short flights and 3 hours in the case of intercontinental flights.
Despite current record interest, the outlook for the aviation industry is still uncertain. Airlines and airports have no idea what the demand for travel will be from the autumn season onwards. It could be even more suffocated by renewed anti-antidote measures, for example in the event of a new coronavirus mutation.
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