Planning for a Trip to Europe in Summer? Keep this in Mind

As people take vacations to make up for being stuck for so long because of the pandemic, they are getting a dose of reality. Airport traffic jams are making sure that their long-awaited trips will get off to a rough start.

Again, there are a lot of people at European airports. This is before many countries’ summer vacations have even started.

People are going to their dream destinations now that most of the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic have been lifted. They want to make up for the travel opportunities they missed over the past two years. This is called “revenge travel.”

The aviation industry was one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus lockdowns, losing more than $230 billion (€219 billion) in 2020, with airlines losing the most. The increase in demand is a huge change for the better.

But the quick recovery has also caused new problems for an already troubled industry. The quick recovery has caught the industry off guard, and now airports can’t find enough staff to handle the rush of travellers. Staff shortages and bottlenecks at airports have led to long lines and wait times for passengers at major European hubs like Frankfurt, Dublin, and Amsterdam, as well as hundreds of flight cancellations, which threaten to dull the industry’s recovery.

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, said in a statement, “With governments making U-turns and policy changes, there was uncertainty until the last minute. This left little time to start up an industry that had been mostly shut down for two years.”

‘Revenge travel’

As measured by revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs, which count the number of kilometres travelled by paying passengers, the total demand for air travel in April rose by nearly 80% compared to April 2021. The IATA said this was due to a rise in international travel. It also said that demand on some routes, like Europe-Central America and Middle East-North America, was higher than it was before the pandemic.

Axel Hefer, managing director and chief executive officer of booking platform Trivago, told DW that people now trust that they will have the classic city experience with restaurants, entertainment, etc. without having to worry about COVID-19 restrictions.

Flight prices have gone up because of high demand, higher jet fuel prices, and the fact that many planes that were grounded during the pandemic are still sitting there. But that doesn’t seem to stop people who want to travel and had to save money during the pandemic from doing so.

“After a long break, vacations are at the top of Germans’ wish lists this year,” Norbert Fiebig, president of the German Travel Association (DRV), told DW. “Rising energy costs and rising inflation can’t change this desire.” Fiebig, on the other hand, said that people were spending more on vacations this year because they were “reserving longer trips and going for higher quality.”

Airlines struggling to capitalize on the rush

The roaring comeback was supposed to be good news for airlines, which had lost billions of euros in cash over the past two years and were eagerly waiting for this moment. But crowded airports have put a damper on things.

Lufthansa, the German flag carrier, cancelled about 900 short-haul domestic and European flights for July at its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich earlier this month. Eurowings, which is part of Lufthansa, is also getting rid of several hundred flights.

A Lufthansa representative told DW that the bottlenecks make it likely that flights won’t be able to run as planned. “Because of this, we had to cancel flights ahead of time to free up space in the system and get our guests to their destinations on time or to make connections.”

Other airlines, like Air France-KLM, a competitor of Lufthansa, and Wizz Air, a low-cost airline, have also been affected by the staffing shortage at airports, where peak demand is getting close to what it was before COVID-19.

Where are the airport employees?

After having to lay off people during the pandemic, the aviation industry is having a hard time finding new workers. Their situation is made worse by the fact that people are becoming pickier about jobs after the pandemic, avoiding ones with bad working conditions and low pay.

“The job market in Germany is still very tight. Employers have trouble filling open positions, but there are a lot of job openings for people to choose from “Fraport, the company that runs Frankfurt Airport, told DW. “Also, hiring people at airports is a complicated and time-consuming process. This is because a lot of the work done in aviation takes place in areas that are important for security and have restrictions.”

Risks to travel revival

Due to problems at airports, people are being told to get to the airport two to two and a half hours before their domestic flight, to check-in online if possible, and to make sure their carry-on bags are packed correctly to avoid waiting at the security checkpoints.

“This last one has a huge effect, as we still find that process times and therefore waiting times at the checkpoint are much longer because people bring a lot of things that aren’t allowed, don’t separate or throw away liquids until they get to the checkpoint, and don’t follow other rules,” Securitas, a Swedish security services company that works at airports, told DW.

Even though there are bottlenecks and staff shortages, the “revenge travel” wave is expected to be good for business. But travellers should be ready for trouble.

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