The vast majority of air passengers are expecting a trouble-free travel experience when flying this summer, with the problems that disrupted journeys last summer having largely been “resolved”.
A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of nearly 5,000 consumers in 11 countries found that 80 per cent were expecting a “smooth” travel experience when flying in the coming peak months.
The sector is bracing itself for a major increase in traffic this summer with hopes that there will not be a repeat of last year’s staffing problems, which caused several of Europe’s largest hub airports, such as London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt, to impose lower daily passenger limits – a move that lead to the cancellation of thousands of flights.
IATA said that flight bookings for departures between May and September were around 35 per cent higher than this time last year, with Europe forecast to see a 39.9 per cent rise in passenger numbers.
Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for operations, safety and security, said: “Expectations are high for this year’s peak northern summer travel season. For many this will be their first post-pandemic travel experience.
“While some disruptions can be expected, there is a clear expectation that the ramping-up issues faced at some key hub airports in 2022 will have been resolved.
“To meet strong demand, airlines are planning schedules based on the capacity that airports, border control, ground handlers and air navigation service providers have declared. Over the next months, all industry players now need to deliver.”
But IATA admitted that strikes by workers, particularly in France where protests continue over the government’s pension reforms, are a “cause for concern” this summer. Data from Eurocontrol shows that previous walkouts by air traffic controllers in France increased daily flight cancellations by more than one-third.
“We need to keep a very careful eye on Europe where strike actions have caused significant disruptions earlier this year,” added Careen.
“Governments should have effective contingency plans in place so that the actions of those providing essential services like air traffic control maintain minimum service levels.”
IATA has also highlighted the priorities needed to help ground handlers to “build resilience” ahead of the busy summer, including effective staff recruitment and retention, and accelerating the use of digital and automated services.
“Short-term we must act fast to prepare for increased traffic,” stressed Monika Mejstrikova, IATA’s director of ground operations.
“Ensuring efficient onboarding of new employees and working with governments to reduce bottlenecks in security clearances is critical. Longer-term, more effective staff recruitment and retention, implementing global standards, and accelerating digitalisation and automation will be critical to build resilience and ensure sustainability.”