The traffic in Europe’s many airports has been increasing over the years. Unfortunately, so have the number of strikes, walk-outs, and fuel issues. This has created a massive problem for travellers, as flights have been experiencing more delays than usual, stranding passengers for hours (and sometimes days) on end.
A study of the previous years’ data shows that flight delays in 2019 increased by 76% from 2017. The delay per flight also grew almost four times from 2013, when it was just 0.38 minutes per flight, to a whopping 1.68 minutes per flight in 2018.
According to aviation experts, travellers in 2020 will experience an average of 1.6 minutes of delay per flight this year. This is excluding those that are a consequence of uncontrollable factors, like weather, fuel issues, technical glitches, and employee strikes.
Staff walk-outs create massive problems for travellers
The primary cause for delays is the long list of strikes that employees at various airports across Europe have called for. Aviation employees have been fighting for better pay and improved working conditions from 2018. However, the absence of any progress or change has resulted in walk-outs.
In France, a country-wide strike resulted in all transportation services, airlines included, coming to a halt. Since this ordeal included air-traffic controllers, airlines coming in from other geographical regions into French airspace too experienced a major delay. Countries like Italy, Germany, and Spain had to face a similar string of aviation staff walk-outs in 2019.
London’s Heathrow and Gatwick have had their fair share of strikes too. In fact, the British Airline Pilots’ Association scheduled multiple strikes at both airports owing to the lack of pay consensus with the company. One of these strikes were expected to be held during the holiday season, just prior to Christmas; a crisis that was finally averted when BA agreed to BAPLA’s terms.
So far, the first week of the New Year hasn’t seen any strikes being called for. However, the effects of the previous year’s strikes are still taking a toll. Millions of passengers coming into and exiting Europe have found themselves either delayed or facing cancelled flights.
Fewer aircraft, but more passengers
Adding to the problem of strikes in Europe’s airports is the reduced number of aircraft in the region’s airspace.
In 2018, two Boeing 737 MAXs crashed and killed all on-board. In March 2019, both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) grounded the aircraft indefinitely pending further investigation.
Recently, reports from EASA revealed that the agency does not intend to rely on the FAA’s results, instead choosing to conduct a slew of tests of its own. These assessments are expected to take up a large part of 2020, meaning that the aircraft will remain grounded a lot longer.
Carriers like Ryanair, whose fleet largely consisted of the Boeing 737 MAX, have now found themselves at the receiving end of EASAs verdict. Assuming EASA approves the aircraft by the spring of 2020, the company will still take the delivery of only 10 Boeing 737 MAXs to its fleet, as opposed to the original plan of 58.