Home » Warnings of Summer Travel Chaos in Europe
European Union Featured Global News News Travel World News

Warnings of Summer Travel Chaos in Europe

Air traffic control expected to be ‘overloaded’

Aircraft passengers have been warned of a “challenging” summer ahead, with air traffic control expected to become overloaded at many key locations.

Eurocontrol, which manages European airspace, issued the warning as the peak summer season began, with about 33,000 daily flights expected across Europe for the next eight weeks. The figure represents about an 8 per cent increase on 2022’s numbers.

Britons are expected to make more than 25 million overseas trips between now and September, mostly by air.

Eurocontrol said it would experience “high overloads” of traffic on most days in many important regions, including Reims and Marseilles in France, Athens and Budapest. It issued similar warnings for London, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Nicosia, Warsaw and Zagreb on peak days, especially Fridays and over the summer weekends. “Overloads” can result in delays and aircraft being forced to fly longer routes to avoid constricted areas.

Raúl Medina, Eurocontrol’s director-general, said: “This summer in Europe is challenging as we have less available airspace because of the war in Ukraine and the military needs . . . We need everyone to play their part. Airports need to be well staffed, it is vital [air traffic services] provide enough capacity and airlines stick to their schedules.”

The daily flight predictions fall short of 2019 levels, when 37,228 flights were recorded on June 28. Since then, however, the number of air traffic controllers has fallen, partly owing to recruitment struggles since the pandemic. The threat of strikes is also greater this year.

Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association, said last month that airlines had serious concerns about air traffic control and that disruption in June was “well beyond what is normal for the time of year”. He added: “We have the chaotic situation where we’re seeing almost daily air traffic control strikes, which doesn’t just disrupt traffic in France but right across Europe because it forces airlines to reroute to other countries.”

Medina told delegates at a meeting of the Airports Council International in Barcelona that increased military activity had reduced the amount of airspace available by up to 20 per cent. Some control centres are handling far more traffic because of rerouted flights.

“Recent industrial action caused many delays,” he said. “We can manage situations like that in quieter periods but if it happens in the middle of summer it will be much more challenging.”

Aviation bosses, including Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, have said that a series of strikes by controllers in France remains one of the biggest threats to summer air travel.

Short-haul flights leaving the UK and Spain are badly affected by French strikes because officials in France protect domestic departures and long-haul flights “overflying” the airspace. The result is mass cancellations of short-haul flights “overflying”, using French airspace but not landing in the country.

There were delays in Calais for ferry travellers on Sunday. The operator DFDS said that coach passengers had waited two hours to be processed. Those with cars faced delays of 45 minutes for passport checks.

Holiday firms have urged Britons not to cancel trips to France, despite the violent protests engulfing the country.

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, told Britons to check the latest Foreign Office advice before travelling.

Source: The Times