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Europe Hit with Travel Chaos

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German Lufthansa Airbus A319-100 with registration D-AIBE on take-off roll on runway 18 of Frankfurt Airport. | Photo by Bjoern Wylezich via Shutterstock

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The German airline Lufthansa scrapped more than 3,100 flights due to staffing issues, adding to Europe’s travel woes just as the critical summer travel season begins.

In addition to the 900 cancellations announced earlier this month, Germany’s flagship carrier stated on Friday that it would eliminate 2,200 domestic and European flights in July and August.

According to a company representative, this represents about 4% of the airline’s total capacity during that period.

Lufthansa saw its share price plummet in Frankfurt, dropping by as much as 3.4%.

With the relaxation of virus restrictions in Europe, travel demand has surged, resulting in long lines at the airport and overbooked flights.

A new strain of COVID-19 that has thus far been less lethal than past variants is causing an increase in sick days among airline and airport staff, further tightening a workforce plagued by overwork, inflation, and labor unrest.

Lufthansa had planned to increase capacity by 75% in 2022 to enhance revenue and reduce debt during a busy summer. But as the COVID threat fades, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr claimed he “mentally check[ed] off the crisis last month,” and now the current spike is setting back his summer strategy.

Strikes at airlines like Ryanair Holdings Plc and IAG SA’s British Airways have been threatened or are already taking place as workers seek wage hikes to keep up with inflation.

Along with the pandemic’s devastating impact on the European aviation industry, which saw billions of dollars in losses, these new circumstances present a new problem.

According to Lufthansa Group COO, Ola Hansson, “Traffic is much more concentrated at weekends. We are struggling with the peaks [which] are almost as high as pre-COVID.”

Companies have been reluctant to rehire because they were concerned about the resilience of ticket sales throughout the health crisis. Now, with the latest round of Lufthansa flight cancellations, Europe’s travel season will likely suffer further disruption.

Already there are walkouts planned by Ryanair workers this weekend in Italy, Portugal, France, and Belgium, wherein flights are expected to be affected.

British Airways check-in personnel at London Heathrow airport are also poised to engage in a labor action if they cannot resolve a pay dispute with their employer.

Gatwick Airport in London said last week that it would cancel hundreds of flights during the busiest travel period of the summer — just hours after Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam did the same — due to worsening staffing issues.

There could be no end in sight this summer as labor supply and consumer demand compound the European airline industry’s problems.   

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