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Airports Around the World Battle Long Lines, Canceled Flights

Airports Around the World Battle Long Lines, Canceled Flights #Airports #World #Battle #Long #Lines #Canceled #Flights Welcome to Lopoid

Delays, cancellations, long lines and lost baggage are plaguing air travel world-wide, as airlines and airports struggle with soaring summer demand and staff shortfalls.

London’s Gatwick Airport has told airlines to cut back on inbound flights as it struggles with staff shortages and canceled flights. Over a four-day weekend celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this month, lines of passengers waiting to check in stretched out of the terminal. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is limiting the number of passengers allowed inside, asking travelers not to show up more than four hours before their flights. It is also warning them to wear comfortable shoes for the hourslong wait once inside.

The two airports—both gateways for European vacations this summer—are struggling, like the rest of the industry, with chronic staff shortages. They and others have tried to hire staff back after letting them go during a two-year-long travel bust thanks to Covid-19 restrictions. Sydney Airport last week staged a job fair looking for 5,000 new hires to work at airport employers as varied as

Qantas

QAN 2.71%

Airways Ltd. and

McDonald’s Corp.

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Canada’s busiest, staffing shortages in security and at customs and immigration have caused delays and lines. Airport officials are bracing for the disruptions to last into the fall, forecasting that pent-up demand for travel won’t let up.

“This fall might be unusual,” said Greater Toronto Airports Authority Chief Executive

Deborah Flint.

“We have markets that are opening up, so we might not see the usual dip in traffic that usually comes after summer.”

Delta planes at Salt Lake City. Demand for U.S. domestic travel has been surging for months.

Photo:

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Flight cancellations have risen this month, according to data compiled by aviation data consultancy Cirium. In the U.S., about 3% of scheduled flights have been scrapped so far this month, compared with a 2% rate in 2019, before Covid. The total number of cancellations rose 16%, to 13,581 fights, from the year-ago period.

In Europe, excluding Russia, about 2% of all flights have been canceled so far in June, compared with a rate of 1% for the same period in 2019. The number of canceled flights rose 162%, to 8,228, in June, compared with the same period in 2019. The data reflects cancellations within 72 hours of the scheduled take-off time, and doesn’t account for the pre-arranged capacity reductions announced across carriers, Cirium said.

A series of unrelated technical issues have added to disruptions across Europe. Switzerland temporarily closed its airspace after an IT glitch last week. Flights to London’s Luton Airport, a gateway to continental Europe, were scrapped due to a power outage earlier this month. Prague Airport operated at reduced capacity after a failure in its air-traffic control system last week.

Demand for U.S. domestic travel has been surging for months—overwhelming capacity in some places at busy times, such as the Memorial Day weekend earlier this year and the recent three-day Juneteenth weekend. More than 5,000 flights have been canceled in recent days by U.S. carriers, which have blamed staff shortages and bad weather. The Federal Aviation Administration said early Monday that the problems were easing as weather improves and traffic volumes subside.

Americans are now also venturing overseas. The U.S. recently lifted one of its last remaining pandemic-era restrictions on global travel, dropping a requirement that people test negative for Covid-19 before boarding U.S.-bound flights. Booking for European destinations from the U.S. are almost back to 2019 levels.

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in Canada, staffing shortages in security and at customs and immigration have caused delays and lines.

Photo:

COLE BURSTON/REUTERS

United Airlines Holdings Inc.

said it saw a 7.6% increase in searches for trips from the U.S. to international destinations in the three days after the end to the testing requirement, compared with the previous week.

The global industry, meanwhile, has been battling to keep up as other governments have dropped or minimized Covid-era travel restrictions. The subsequent demand for flying, especially during the summer, has taken airlines and airports by surprise, executives say.

“The industry created an expectation for a more gradual, much slower ramp up in demand than what’s actually happening,” said

Jozsef Varadi,

Chief Executive of

Wizz Air,

one of Europe’s biggest discount carriers.

Jozsef Varadi is chief executive of Wizz Air, one of Europe’s biggest budget airlines.

Photo:

Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News

Globally the industry is also fighting to fill roles in air-traffic control, airport security, baggage handling, catering and at check-in. Governments had tried to prop up or subsidize airlines through the downturn, with bailout or government-backed furlough programs. But the measures have been a patchwork and haven’t helped some airlines and airports retain sufficient staff to quickly snap back to meet demand.

Airports have to contend with security measures related to hiring. The recruitment process can take around 16 weeks, including the relevant security background checks that allow a worker into certain parts of an airport.

“Getting staff back into an airport isn’t like hiring for a restaurant or supermarket,” said

Olivier Jankovec,

director general of airports group ACI Europe. He said it would have been reckless to begin hiring earlier, when an Omicron variant wave led to the return of restrictions in many places. Still, he said, “to be fully resourced today, we’d need to have begun a recruitment drive about six months ago.”

Demonstrators during an Allied Pilots Association and Transport Workers Union protest in New York in early June.

Photo:

Lucia Buricelli/Bloomberg News

Airlines are taking unusual steps to mitigate the impact. European discounter

easyJet

PLC has removed a row of seats from 58 of its smallest

Airbus

A319 aircraft so it can fly those jets with fewer crew without going above mandated crew-to-seat ratios. Australia’s Qantas has asked office staff at its headquarters to help on the ground at its airports in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. They are performing tasks such as handing out water to customers or ferrying late arrivals through security.

Qantas Chief Executive

Alan Joyce

said “There are blocks in the chain all the way through” the industry. He described commercial aviation right now as  “a rusty industry, trying to get it flowing again.”

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Over the weekend, at London’s Heathrow Terminal 2, barricades had been erected outside the airport’s main entrance in anticipation of long lines later in the day. On Saturday, passengers stopped to take pictures of hundreds of suitcases that had been stashed on the ground-floor concourse, outside the terminal. They were left there overnight after a baggage-handling fault left them stranded.

“That was the first time I’ve seen anything like that,” said Charlie Mischel, who runs a small telecommunications company based out of Houston and was on vacation in the U.K. A spokeswoman for Heathrow said the baggage issue, which started on Friday, had been resolved by the next day. “We are working closely with airlines to reunite passengers with their luggage as soon as possible,” she said.

Austin Carroll said United had sent emails advising him to get to the airport at least four hours early. He is a student from the U.S. who had been in London for an internship at a family-run finance outfit. He decided to arrive five hours early: “I didn’t want to take the risk.”

Videos shared online show long lines snaking through U.S. airports as travelers faced flight delays and cancellations due to weather and staffing issues during the busy Juneteenth and Father’s Day holiday weekend. Airports around the world have also faced issues. Photo: Jonathan Pavlinec/Storyful

Write to Benjamin Katz at ben.katz@wsj.com and Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

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