Airlines hoping to cash in on renewed demand are facing labor agitation after firing swathes of workers during the pandemic.
Hundreds of flights from various European airports were canceled or delayed on Saturday as the industry struggles with ongoing worker strikes.
Labor action by cabin crews at the two low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair as well as by airport workers in Europe’s second-busiest airport — Roissy-Charles de Gaulle in Paris — are causing major headaches for airlines just as the first school summer holidays begin after two years of pandemic restrictions.
One in five flights from the main Paris airport were canceled on Saturday morning, while the EasyJet and Ryanair strike led to the cancellation of 15 flights to and from Spain with another 175 delayed.
Ryanair’s cabin crew also announced another 12 days of work stoppages. Paris airport workers said they will walk out again on July 8 to 10.
Low-cast airlines facing further strike disruptions
The striking cabin crews are demanding improvements to their working conditions and pay to put them in line with other European airlines.
Ryanair employees have been striking since June 24, with the aim of bringing the company to the negotiation table, while EasyJet cabin crews joined the strike on Friday.
“After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days,” Lidia Arasanz from the USO union that has organized the Ryanair workers was quoted by AFP as saying.
Arasanz said that the initial strike had seen a total so far of “more than 200 flights canceled and almost 1,000 delays,” adding that the new strike could cause even more disruptions.
Strike action in France and Scandinavia
Airport workers at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle are fighting for a wage hike to balance out rising costs from inflation.
They had been offered a 4% pay increase on the condition that they end the strike on Friday, but this was rejected.
“A majority of workers think the offer is not good enough,” Daniel Bertone, who represents the CGT union, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “They don’t trust management and they don’t accept the ‘it’s this or nothing’ blackmail.”
The industry slashed thousands of jobs during the pandemic when people were unable or unwilling to fly, but they have been unable to refill positions as the new post-restrictions demand has soared.
Airports in the UK and the Netherlands struggled to deal with the surge in traffic earlier in the year, while France was largely spared.
Pilots for the Scandinavian SAS airline delayed a planned strike on Saturday after negotiations with company management showed some progress. If the 900 pilots go ahead with their strike, hundreds of flights per day will likely be canceled.