Delays at Heathrow airport baggage reclaim have been caused by a lack of staff. / reuters

Problems at European airports continue to plague a summer that was expected to be back to normal after the pandemic

In Spain, the ALA airlines association claims the situation is largely different because, thanks to the furlough system, staff were not made redundant during the coronavirus health crisis

EDURNE MARTÍNEZ Madrid

This summer is looking “complicated” at European airports, say many airlines, and a look at some of the biggest airports this week confirms this, as staff shortages are leading to delays at baggage reclaim and check-in desks and hundreds of flights are being cancelled.

And this is all happening at the start of a summer which promised to mark the return to pre-pandemic levels for tourism because the restrictions on mobility have finally been lifted. Several major airlines have had no option but to cancel flights because they lost so many employees during the height of the pandemic.

In Spain, the ALA airlines association says the situation is different because thanks to the furlough system, staff were not made redundant. Sources at ALA say the problem is mainly affecting the UK, especially Gatwick, where there was a mechanism similar to the Spanish furloughs but it only lasted until September 2021 and then a lot of employees were laid off permanently. It is now proving difficult to recruit others.

Brexit complications

“Brexit has made it more complicated because EU staff need more documentation and accreditations now, and in addition to that, new recruits have to be trained,” they say.

Of course, Spanish residents who are trying to return to this country are encountering problems because of cancelled flights and congested airports. In London, British Airways has cut back 10% of its flights until October, staff shortages are causing congestion at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport and Frankfurt is being affected by strikes.

Border controls

In Spain, some airlines have complained that not enough police have been assigned to check passports of passengers from outside the EU, such as the UK. This has sometimes led to 45-minute delays, and the airline Iberia says over 15,000 people have missed connecting flights since 1 March because of this problem.

The Ministry of the Interior then announced that 500 more police officers are being sent to 12 airports and Iberia says airports in Spain are operating more smoothly now. However, it also recognises that the summer is likely to be very complicated for airports everywhere, and there will be repercussions in Spain because so many tourists fly in from London, Amsterdam and airports in Germany.