Airlines for Europe (A4E), the largest association of European airlines, expects air traffic to reach 90% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels as early as this summer. Long queues continue to be expected at several European airports.
At a time when several airports in the European Union (EU) record high demand and waiting times above normal, A4E announced in a press statement that “during the upcoming peak summer period, traffic is expected to reach 90% of 2019 levels and exceed it for some destinations.” Some airlines are already performing above pre-Covid-19 volumes, according to data from the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol).
The recovery is happening faster than the rate at which the industry, particularly airports, can hire staff and national authorities are able to conduct the associated background checks. A4E estimates that in the coming months these operational challenges could result in increased delays, long queues throughout the terminal, and “in the worst case, passengers missing their flight.”
Traffic has become much more concentrated at peak periods.Airlines for Europe
Schiphol airport in Amsterdam has already asked airlines to cancel flights or prevent new bookings to avoid overcrowding at the terminal, while Germany’s Frankfurt airport has made similar requests to carriers and plans to operate at reduced capacity in June and July. Similar situations are expected at other major European airports during the summer, Airlines for Europe announced.
The industry is preparing for operations ahead of a busy summer season. But a combination of airport and ground staff shortages, higher absenteeism rates, and a delay in security pass approvals, is leading to major operational challenges.
Airlines have acknowledged the causes of airport capacity constraints and that efforts are being made to find solutions. “It is the primary responsibility of airports to ensure that operations are safe, efficient and able to meet demand but some of them have failed to avoid bottlenecks,” A4E stated.
The association suggests “accelerated background check and security approval processes by national authorities” when hiring staff, and also asks airport managers to act, together with ground providers, to manage these bottlenecks.
A4E represents 16 major European airlines, such as TAP, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, EasyJet, Lufthansa, among others, equivalent to 70% of European traffic. These companies carried 270 million passengers in 2021, down from 700 million in 2019, due to the pandemic.