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Large crowds at airport security checkpoint
2022 is busy at the airport and lacks staff - delays are to be expected in the high season Image: Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

Flight cancellations in the 2022 summer flight schedule

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Worldwide, the airline industry is experiencing a massive pent-up demand for passenger flights. More than two years of the pandemic have left people eager to travel, but the supposed boom in air travel bookings is slowing down somewhat. At the moment, it is not so much the previous legal restrictions due to COVID that are holding people back, instead it is now expensive fuel prices and, above all, an acute shortage of staff. Flight cancellations and chaotic conditions at some airports are the result.

During the pandemic, savings were made in airlines but also in airport staff, and about a fifth of the jobs were cut. Airlines as well as airport operators are now desperately looking for replacements for the thousands of people whose jobs were cut not so long ago. Although insiders had announced the rebound in the number of bookings, most operators are now showing themselves to be overwhelmed. The pent-up demand ahead of the peak summer travel season is outstripping the ability to find enough qualified workers, for example as flight attendants, at security checkpoints and in aircraft handling. The global industry association IATA expects air travel to exceed 4 billion by 2024, the pre-Covid level of 2019. According to OAG analysis, the recovery is occurring fastest in the US and for intra-Asian flights, as Europe had cut back flight capacity the most. In general, tourist travel in particular is increasing rapidly again, while the number of business travellers is rising more cautiously.

Nevertheless, the pent-up demand is now showing up massively. Some of Europe's top destinations now even have more passengers wanting to reach them than in 2019. The first consequence is delays in all flight handling processes, especially at peak times. The second effect is that airlines have now started to reduce the flight schedule. The cancellations started around Easter and now more and more flights are being taken out of the schedule. Here are a few examples:

AUA (Austrian Airlines) is apparently short of hundreds of staff on board and on the ground. According to the industry magazine Austrianwings, the staff is unhappy because of meagre pay and not entirely voluntary salary sacrifices. They strategically chose to hold staff meetings over the busy Whitsun weekend, resulting in about 60 flight cancellations and 5000 passengers affected. 

Easyjet, for example, is reducing the number of seats sold per aircraft in order to be allowed to fly with fewer flight crew in accordance with current regulations. The other complication that led to dozens of flight cancellations in the UK was a wave of Covid illnesses among its own flight staff. Hundreds of flights were cancelled in the UK in a short period of time (including by British Airways and Wizz-Air) because over 30000 aviation staff had been laid off in the pandemic and were now missing. This has led to very long queues at UK airports.

Swiss stresses to have deliberately thinned out the flight schedule due to staff shortages in order to minimise rebookings due to spontaneous cancellations. The originally planned capacity of 2019 of over 18 million passengers is thus no longer targeted, but only 80% of it. Effectively, this will result in more than 100 flight cancellations. About 2% of Swiss passengers are affected (about 10,000 passengers in July and August), 80% of whom could be rebooked on other Lufthansa Group or Star Alliance flights. The Vienna-Zurich connection is also severely affected.

Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr already revealed in a CH Media interview in April that the airline had cancelled a three-digit number of flights from the summer timetable and that the additional costs of $10 per barrel of paraffin would be directly reflected in the price of a ticket. A joint offer by Lufthansa and the Swiss shipping company MSC to buy the Italian state airline ITA is also being considered, as Spohr believes that this, like other airlines in particular, would not be able to survive the year 2022 economically. Lufthansa cancelled about 900 flights for the month of July, the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings more than 100.

Airport operators in general expect that two-thirds of European airports will not be able to keep up with the passenger rush due to a lack of ground staff and that there will therefore be more frequent flight delays into the autumn. However, their international associations (ACI, ASA) consider complete and spontaneous flight cancellations less likely. Lobbyists of the airport operators criticise above all too little state aid, which could have absorbed cancellations. In addition, there are supposed to be too strict safety deadlines for the training of new staff, who are only allowed to start work at the airport 16 weeks later in some cases.

Tips

  1. Get to airport early
    - as security checks or check-ins can take longer due to understaffed ground staff, your usual time to be at boarding on time may not be sufficient. Plan for reserve time!
  2. Well prepared
    -  Airlines ask passengers to be considerate to avoid unnecessary delays. Have the required corona and travel documents ready and come with less hand luggage. When packing, do not forget liquid restrictions and other hand luggage regulations.
  3. Delays more common
    - Airport operators expect more frequent flight delays this summer season. A delay of at least 2 hours results in various claims. Read our guide on flight delays!
  4. Short notice cancellations
    -  If the airline cancels the flight less than 14 days before departure, you may be entitled to compensation. This depends on the time of your notification and the time of the offered alternative flight. For details, see our guide to flight cancellations!
  5. Substitute flight must suit you
    - The replacement flight offered by the airline may be disadvantageous for you if, for example, it does not take place until much later. You can also find a flight with another airline and propose it as a replacement flight. The law states that a replacement flight must be as similar as possible to the cancelled flight (flight time, duration, route). In any case, contact the original airline before you book the other flight on your own authority!
  6. Help with claims
    - You can file your claim for violation of your passenger rights free of charge with the APF or, for EU flights, with us.

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