Delays and flight cancellations inevitable at major European airports this summer, experts warn

Passengers queue for security screening in the departures area of Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport (REUTERS)
Passengers queue for security screening in the departures area of Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport (REUTERS)

Delays and flight cancellations are inevitable at European airports this summer amid staff shortages and high demand, a top travel industry organisation has warned.

Research by the European airports association ACI Europe found two-thirds (66 per cent) of airports on the continent expected the number of flight cancellations and delays to increase.

More than a third of airports surveyed said operations would be affected by staff shortages, according to the report released last Thursday.

Airports in the UK have already been struggling to keep up with a surge in demand following the end of Covid restrictions, with lengthy queues reported in Manchester and Birmingham airports last month.

Air traffic in March was around a third below usual levels, the report said, representing a strong recovery from the -51.1 per cent in January 2022.

“Coping with this sudden increase and concentration of air traffic has been challenging for airports and their operational partners - in particular ground handlers,” ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec and Fabio Gamba, MD of ASA (Airport Services Association), said in a joint statement.

“This has resulted in an increase in flight delays and cancellations, and more generally a degraded passenger experience at many airports.”

Mr Jankovec said that the challenge was for airports to manage the surge in demand with “hugely depleted resources”.

“This now requires re-staffing in what is a very tight labour market across Europe,” he said.

“What’s more, the time required by national security clearance procedures for airport staff combined with training requirements simply make it impossible to adjust overnight. All this, combined with traffic being much more concentrated over peak periods, is putting significant strain on the entire aviation system as we strive to recover.”

His warning follows chaotic scenes at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport earlier this month where an increase in passenger numbers was compounded by a strike by ground personnel.

Airport authorities told passengers not to arrive at the airport on April 23 as the main terminal was “too full”.

Pictures showed huge queues stretching through the airport’s main halls as thousands of passengers saw their flights delayed.