Airports and hospitality venues across Europe are struggling to keep up with increased travel demand following the easing of pandemic restrictions.
2022 marks the first summer many Europeans can travel after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, sparking a wave of tourists across the continent.
But thousands of furloughed hospitality workers also never returned to their jobs after pandemic restrictions were lifted.
Many airports that have downsized in the past two years also find themselves unable to attract new workers in time to cope with the summer rush.
Photos from mid-May to June showed holidaymakers queuing around the block at airports in Madrid, Amsterdam, Sweden and Dublin.
Hopeful holidaymakers are pictured at Dublin Airport on Tuesday where bosses have been urged to find solutions to resolve the long delays facing passengers
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the situation was ‘unacceptable and not good enough’. Concern grows over what could happen at the airport ahead of the bank holiday weekend
Travelers at Schiphol airport are pictured, at the end of a long weekend, Schiphol, the Netherlands, May 29, 2022
Travelers wait in long queues to fly from Schiphol. The airport now warns unequivocally that there could be hours of queues in the coming weeks
More than 1,000 passengers missed their flights at Dublin Airport on Sunday after understaffing led to hours of queuing.
Dublin Airport has cut too many staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Dublin Airport Authority CEO Dalton Philips said staff absences and the accidental posting of trainees to security were exacerbating queuing problems.
“We thought that in 2022 with 70% of our staff (pre-Covid) everything would be fine and we were wrong…” Philips told a parliamentary committee. “We got it hugely wrong in terms of recovery levels.”
No industry analyst believed traffic would return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or 2025, he said, but in Dublin it was back to 90% – with some now predicting travel could exceed the levels seen before the pandemic.
The DAA laid off 25% of its staff at the height of the pandemic.
Ireland’s Covid-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme provided a weekly subsidy of £350 per worker to businesses that experienced a 25% drop in turnover.
Dublin Airport has cut too many staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, its chief executive said on Wednesday
“We thought that in 2022 with 70% of our staff (pre-Covid) everything would be fine and we were wrong…” Philips told a parliamentary committee. “We got it hugely wrong in terms of recovery levels.” No industry analyst believed traffic would return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or 2025, he said, but in Dublin it was back at 90 per cent
But the Institute for Government think tank said countries like Ireland that have centered their wage support on general grants rather than focusing on paying employees just for the hours they haven’t worked have saw their unemployment rates rise further.
In the case of Ireland, “special pandemic unemployment benefits were so generous that initially workers could receive more benefits than if they stayed at work, which perversely incentivized employers to lay off workers,” the institute said.
The Paris airport authority has also warned of serious disruptions at Charles-de-Gaulle airport. Travelers complained of long lines in early May.
Last year, airport authorities said they were giving up on building a huge new terminal that would have allowed the airport to handle up to 40 million extra passengers a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dutch airline KLM last week stopped selling tickets for flights departing from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, with a video showing slow queues and exasperated travellers.
On Tuesday, the Swedish parliament summoned the CEO of airline Swedavia to explain the long queues at Arlanda airport in Stockholm.
On the same day, tourists arriving at Spain’s Palma de Mallorca airport waited nearly three hours after landing to join coaches for their hotels, reported The Irish Mirror.
Spanish air traffic control personnel are currently deciding to go on strike, which could further affect travel plans.
Germany has seen hundreds of flights canceled after its airport workers went on strike in March.
A number of women also said ITV News they found themselves stranded in Bulgaria after their return flight to Birmingham was cancelled.
Tourists arriving at Spanish airports said they waited almost three hours after landing to join coaches for their hotels. Long queues were caught on video in Madrid
Britons arriving for holidays across Europe are expected to find several venues closed after hotel bosses complained they could not get the staff needed to cater to the influx of tourists.
With an estimated 250,000 vacancies in restaurants and cafes, French business owners have blamed President Macron’s Covid furlough scheme, which allowed staff to stay home on full pay during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, French workers could claim up to 70% of pre-crisis wages up to a cap. Workers could be on the scheme for 12 months instead of the usual six months.
During the crisis, the State reimbursed any wages paid by employers to their staff for hours not worked, up to a ceiling of 4.5 times the hourly minimum wage.
Macron himself described it as the most generous program in Europe. But many never returned to the industry.
The unemployment rate in France has reached 7.3%, the lowest since 2008, with jobs available in other sectors.
Macron said he was proud of the emergency economic measures taken by his government to support employment during the pandemic and highlighted a reduction in unemployment from 9.6% to 7.4%.
But the success in reducing unemployment has resulted in an influx of young workers who traditionally support the hospitality sector seeking opportunities elsewhere.
Analysts say the same has happened with airport workers, with former employees seeking employment in other roles after the sector was thrown into uncertainty by Covid-19.