Almost traditionally, summer brings chaos at airports. The system was already at its performance limit before Corona. After the catastrophic summer of 2018, companies and politicians promised a remedy – then came the pandemic. And with it the job cuts at airports and airlines. It probably went too far: tens of thousands not only left their company, but the entire industry.
In view of the massive financial crisis, there was no alternative to job cuts, the companies say. But it is questionable whether prudence was actually exercised. The bon mot that made the rounds in the industry early on was that people wanted to “get out of the crisis stronger than they went into it”. Extensive cost-cutting programs followed, particularly in the area of personnel. In addition, there was an overly pessimistic estimate of demand, which was unusual for aviation.
The shock of the months-long cessation of almost all business activity was so great that until last winter, a recovery in passenger numbers to the pre-Corona level was not expected until 2024 at the earliest. At least for the summer months, this forecast has been in vain for a few months. For the airports, this means that there are as many passengers as in previous summers of chaos, only with fewer workers.
In Germany, Lufthansa and Eurowings have now announced hundreds of flight cancellations in July and August. Consumer advocates criticize that it’s early enough to avoid compensation payments. However, you are entitled to a rebooking or a refund of the flight price. That should be cold consolation shortly before the first beach vacation in years. Eurowings asserts why the tourist routes are preferred in the reduced flight schedule.
For most of the passengers affected, it will result in a rebooking anyway, the changed departure and return times bring their own difficulties. In some cases, switching to other modes of transport is not ruled out.
According to the airlines, the main problem is the staff shortages at the airports. The jobs in the terminal and on the apron are provided with a high access barrier in an empty job market: the background check of the aviation security authorities. It is supposed to protect against criminals in the processing, but has become an oversized obstacle due to tightening and long processing times.
The regulations are strict: Complete CVs and certificates of good conduct from countries in which one has stayed for more than six months discriminate against migrants in particular when recruiting. However, they are the most important pool of workers for the exhausting and often meagerly paid apron jobs, for which there are currently around 20 percent too few staff available. Politicians could quickly remedy the situation with more realistic regulations.
But it won’t be enough for this summer. It remains to be seen whether a significant number of booked passengers will not be able to start their journey. It is more likely that the demand can be met, just simply with fewer flights. From a climate point of view, that would also be an interesting lesson from the past summers of chaos.