This summer has been plagued by travel disruption across Europe, with airlines and airports struggling to cope with the huge bounce back in demand for air travel after the COVID-19 crisis.
Pictures of long security queues, mounds of left baggage waiting to be reunited with owners, flight delays and cancellations, and also strikes by disgruntled workers have not exactly made going on vacation this summer an appealing prospect.
But are there any ways to get around the chaos? AeroTime takes a look at some options, which may or may not be entirely practical.
Book on Ryanair
Unlike some of its rivals, Ryanair didn’t carry out major staff cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead deciding to cut pay but keep employees on.
That seems to have paid off in terms of flight reliability. According to data from consultancy OAG, Ryanair canceled 0.3% of flights in the first six months of 2022, compared with British Airways’ total of 3.5%, and easyJet’s 2.8%.
“The decision to minimize job losses and keep crew current has been fully vindicated,” Michael O’Leary said in a video presentation after the company reported first-quarter results on July 25, 2022. He said Ryanair expected to operate almost 100% of its summer flights, despite operating at 115% of pre-pandemic capacity.
While Ryanair has been the subject of some strikes in Spain, Italy and Belgium, O’Leary said these were small and most of them, except in Belgium, were not supported by cabin crew and pilots, thus keeping disruption to a minimum.
“We’re suffering more disruptions from ATC and airport staff shortages than anything else,” O’Leary said.
OAG updated its cancellation data in a blog post on July 19, 2022, saying that for the last five weeks, Ryanair cancellation rates had crept up, though passengers were still five times more likely to be canceled on easyJet than Ryanair.
“Both easyJet and Ryanair saw their flight cancellation rates increase, although for Ryanair perhaps a 0.43% rate isn’t too shabby in the current conditions,” OAG analyst John Grant noted in the blog.
Don’t fly from Germany
Sticking with the OAG data but comparing the major travel markets of the United States, UK, Spain, France and Germany, Grant said cancellation rates were getting better, notably in the UK.
“In percentage terms, it seems that you are still over three times more likely to have your flight cancelled in Germany than in the United Kingdom but things appear to be getting better,” Grant noted.
The strike on July 27, 2022 forced Germany’s flag carrier to ground virtually all its flights from its main hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, over 1,000 flights in total.
Fly from smaller airports?
While major airports such as London Heathrow, Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol have been capping flights to try and ease disruption, there are some smaller airports crying out for passengers.
The boss of London Southend Airport (SEN), which is located in Essex, to the east of the capital, told Sky News that Southend has spare capacity and has offered to help out by hosting flights canceled at busier hubs.
Pre-pandemic, the airport welcomed around 2 million passengers, but now it is down to just a couple of flights per day.
“We’ve reached out actually, to many of the people who are going to be affected,” Glyn Jones told the broadcaster in an interview on July 23, 2022.
“I think the issue is that it’s just very late for people, so we may be able to play, candidly, a minor role in it, but a minor role is a useful role if it’s your flight that’s affected.”
So, if you are still thinking about booking travel this summer, have a look for smaller airports near you. It might be a less stressful experience!
Can you identify your suitcase?
Credit: Travel man / Shutterstock.com
Many airports and airlines have also been issuing advice regarding luggage this summer. The overriding message seems to be to pack light, to avoid checking in bags. And of course, to make sure you are aware of the rules regarding liquids in hand luggage. The pandemic has not changed those rules and they remain the same as before! In Europe, bottles must be a maximum of 100ml each and they must fit into one clear plastic sandwich bag per passenger.
Fraport, the operator of Frankfurt Airport, also advised passengers to make their luggage more individual. Black suitcases are best avoided, according to the company’s tips. That way, if your bag does fail to turn up on time, it’s easier to identify among a sea of lost luggage.
“Individual stickers, a colorful suitcase band, symbols stuck on with sticky tape, suitcase covers or a piece of ribbon around the handle are all useful,” Thomas Kirner, from Fraport’s passenger communication division, recommended.
Not for everyone of course, but if you’ve got the spare cash, then taking a trip on a private jet is a surefire way to avoid airport crowds.
Private jet travel already experienced a boom during the pandemic, with wealthy people looking for a more hygienic way to fly and mitigate the lack of commercial flights during the crisis.
Private charter firm Air Partner (AIR) said it expects the rise in private jet travel to continue this summer, because people are looking to minimize disruption. The company said it was seeing different generations within families, groups of friends or different families teaming up to look at private jet options for their summer getaway.
“As people look forward to their long-awaited getaway this summer, we are seeing an increase in enquiries and bookings from those who would normally fly first-class on commercial airlines, as they explore different options for travel with minimal disruption,” said Kevin MacNaughton, Managing Director, Charter, Air Partner Group. “Compared to July 2019, enquiries are up 20%, reflecting greater awareness of private jet travel.”