British holidaymakers are braced for fresh travel chaos across Europe this summer with staff at Ryanair on Saturday becoming the latest to threaten strike action.
As striking airport workers in Paris forced the cancellation of dozens of flights on Saturday and promised more industrial action later in July, Spain-based cabin crew at Ryanair revealed they now plan to strike for 12 days in July.
Elsewhere, Scandinavian carrier SAS and its pilots confirmed continuing wage talks would run until Monday in the hope of averting a strike.
In the UK, airlines will this week announce a series of cancellations to summer flights, with reports indicating British Airways is expected to face the brunt of axed flights and Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow, anticipated to be the worst affected.
On Saturday night, the government tried to dampen fears about the staff shortages that have been a key factor in the recent travel chaos witnessed in the UK, saying security tests for new workers are being completed in record times.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said counter-terrorist checks for staff to handle baggage and carry out security checks are now being processed on average in less than 10 days – half the time it took in March.
Despite the DfT’s announcement, there is continuing anxiety over the industry’s ability to cope this summer.
Chaotic scenes at UK airports over Easter have already seen easyJet and British Airways preemptively axing thousands of flights to prevent last-minute cancellations.
On Saturday morning a sign of fresh chaos to come was witnessed in Paris, with a fifth of flights cancelled at France’s busiest airport amid a dispute over wages and working conditions.
Several hours later, Ryanair crew in Spain announced that they would also pursue strike action to demand better working conditions.
Their action is planned to occur laterin July and affect the 10 Spanish airports where Ryanair operates, unions said.
At the same time, Scandinavian carrier SAS and its pilots agreed to extend talks until Monday in the hope of averting another strike that would bring significant misery to travellers.
Almost 1,000 pilots in Denmark, Sweden and Norway plan to strike if talks break down, according to unions, which SAS warns could leave about 30,000 passengers stranded each day.
“We need to sleep, none of us have slept for a really long time,” said Marianne Hernaes, head negotiator of SAS, after the latest round of talks ran through Friday night.
Pressure is also mounting at Heathrow, which is racing to rework its flight schedules amid reports it must finalise the airport’s summer schedule by Friday.Flights cancelled or removed from airline schedules after the Friday deadline will not fall under the slot amnesty, it is understood.
The amnesty on flights last month allowed airlines to hand back landing and take-off slots if they are unable to use them despite having purchased slots ahead of the season.
Airline workers across Europe have been staging walkouts as the industry adapts to a resumption of high travel demand after pandemic lockdowns.Industry figures have warned that the problems affecting airports are unlikely to be resolved by summer.