Home Traveling guide Holiday travel is back – with long lines and high expectations

Holiday travel is back – with long lines and high expectations

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Many travel restrictions imposed over the past two years have now been lifted and people are making up for lost time visiting relatives, commuting for work or taking vacations, especially over the Easter holidays. But airlines and airports are struggling to expand as a labor shortage hampers efforts to recruit new workers and Covid infections sideline many existing employees.

Austin, Texas airport has been overrun in recent weeks, with long lines for security and to return rental cars late last month. In the UK, British Airways has cut its flight schedule until May, while London Heathrow Airport says it is scrambling to hire 12,000 workers. And in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, the airport expects Thursday – the day before a four-day Easter weekend – to be the busiest day for domestic travel since March 2020, a huge challenge with 20% of its staff absent from work every day due to Covid-19.

“It’s the longest line I think I’ve ever waited in, and we’ve traveled a lot,” said Mary Beth Wood, 65, as she stood in a security line that sometimes snaked in front the gate to Sydney Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

Airlines have spent much of the pandemic laying off or furloughing thousands of workers and mothballing planes. Many pilots – once considered a dream job – had to find work elsewhere, from grocery stores to farms where they drove heavy machinery instead of jumbo jets. Today, the aviation sector competes for workers with other industries, from truck driving to hospitality, which are also seeing increased demand.

“Unfortunately, this is an industry where you can’t slow down and grow overnight,” said Subhas Menon, chief executive of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. “It takes a bit of time to make sure you have staff who are qualified.”

The International Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, warned this month that airports, governments and other infrastructure providers should prepare for the huge increase in passenger numbers as that the recovery of air transport is accelerating. Although international travel has been slower to rebound, the latest IATA figures show domestic travel in February was up 61% from a year ago and was just 22% below levels. 2019.

In the United States, airlines have had nearly a year to adjust to increased passenger numbers, but even so passengers have faced periodic grunts as spring break travel overwhelmed them. Flyers at New York’s LaGuardia Airport faced 40-50 minute waits Tuesday morning amid high passenger numbers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said. .

Some US airlines have said they don’t have enough staff to recover quickly in the event of bad weather or other disruptions. Alaska Air Group Inc. said it would cut 2% of flights through the end of June as it seeks to catch up on pilot training. JetBlue Airways Corp. said she would reduce her schedule by 8% to 10% in May and throughout the summer to ease staffing constraints.

JetBlue told crew members in a memo over the weekend that its efforts to consider personnel, equipment, aircraft availability and airport infrastructure in planning its schedule had been upset.

“Covid has thrown all sorts of twists and turns into this process,” President Joanna Geraghty wrote.

Delta Air Lines Inc. has hired about 15,000 new employees since the start of last year, in part to replace those who left during the pandemic, Chief Executive Ed Bastian said in an interview Tuesday. “I feel good about our staffing position,” he said. “We took a step ahead.”

The UK has seen an increase in flights after the country became the first in the world to remove all Covid-related travel restrictions. In the north of England, Manchester Airport recently issued an apology to passengers after travelers faced hours of delays.

Staff shortages there mean not all security lanes can be opened, and an executive has warned passengers they should be prepared to wait up to 90 minutes over the next few months as he recruits new employees and subjects each to a government vetting process.

“The simple fact is that we currently do not have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve,” said Manchester Airports Group Chief Executive Charlie Cornish. tough job markets we’ve seen, with competition from many other companies that are in the same situation.”

In Asia, airlines face other challenges: redirecting some of their flights into Russian airspace following that country’s invasion of Ukraine, adding hours to flight times, increasing fuel costs and making travel less attractive to travellers.

Japan Airlines Co. flights connecting Haneda with Europe now use a northbound route – flying over Alaska, Greenland and Iceland – which adds up to six hours to travel time from Helsinki. A JAL spokesperson said the airline has kept the ticket price unchanged so far, and from April 19 it is planned to use a southerly route to take advantage of tailwinds to save energy and time.

In Australia, which reopened its border to tourists in February, crowds at the country’s airports have dominated local news for several days. Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s main airline, has diverted some staff who don’t usually work at the airport to help guide passengers and help with baggage, while Sydney Airport said it was rolling out senior managers in the terminals to help run the lines.

The airport security contractor has been recruiting for more than 100 security checkpoints since December but is struggling to find enough workers, a problem in Australia after nearly two years of strict border closures that have hampered the ‘immigration. The airport said 50 new screeners will be phased in over the coming weeks, but the process of training new staff takes two months.

“This industry has been completely destroyed and we’ve been building from scratch,” said Geoff Culbert, the airport’s general manager, in a TV interview. fight for the same resources.”

Adding to the woes, passengers are also rusty when it comes to getting through security, said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce. Before the pandemic, 10% of passengers had to be re-screened when going through security, but now that figure is up to 30%, Mr Joyce said. This adds 45 seconds per person, which adds up if thousands of people are traveling.

As the security line began to move at Sydney Airport, Ms Wood, who only had hand luggage, said she was not worried about missing her approximately 90-minute domestic flight to Melbourne, given that she had arrived on time and had about an hour and a half until boarding.

“We learned to go with the flow,” said Ms Wood, who was visiting Australia from California. “As long as we get there on time, we’ll be fine. If we miss our flight, then we’ll be at a high level of horror.”

This story was published from a news agency feed with no text edits

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