European airports are experiencing a surge in passenger numbers as global travel begins to recover to pre-pandemic levels. However, wage negotiations between airline and airport staff are ongoing, raising concerns about potential disruptions during the peak summer season. Last year, Europe’s peak season was marred by cancellations, causing chaos at airports. This year, air traffic control issues are expected to be the weak spot, according to warnings from Eurocontrol, the organization responsible for managing European airspace. A trade union within Eurocontrol has announced a potential six-month period for industrial action in the Network Manager Operations Centre, which oversees air traffic across Europe. While no specific strike dates have been set, the possibility of disruption looms.
In Belgium, Ryanair pilots have announced a strike on July 15-16 in demand for higher wages and improved working conditions. The strike may impact approximately 140 flights from Charleroi airport, although the number of pilots participating and the resulting flight cancellations remain uncertain.
Meanwhile, EasyJet in Britain has decided to cancel 2% of its summer flight schedule, affecting the travel plans of 180,000 customers. The airline cited concerns over air traffic control challenges across Europe as the reason for canceling 1,700 flights, primarily from London’s Gatwick airport, for the remainder of July and August.
France has also been facing repeated air traffic control strikes due to President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to raise the pension age. These strikes have led to delays and limited flights throughout the country, exacerbating air space congestion in Europe. In June alone, Ryanair canceled over 900 flights, largely due to the French air traffic control strikes.
In Italy, multiple unions have called for a nationwide airport staff strike on July 15. This strike is related to negotiations for a new collective contract and will involve air traffic controllers, baggage handlers, check-in personnel, and Italian pilots of Vueling. The strike is scheduled to take place between 10 am and 6 pm local time. Additionally, pilots and flight attendants of Malta Air will join the strike from noon for a duration of four hours.
In Portugal, EasyJet has preemptively canceled 350 flights to and from the country’s airports ahead of a cabin staff strike scheduled for July 21-25.
As the summer season progresses, the travel industry remains on high alert for any potential disruptions. With ongoing wage negotiations and the threat of strikes, both airports and airlines are working to mitigate any potential impact on passengers. Air travelers are advised to stay updated on the latest developments and to check with their airlines for any changes to their flight itineraries.