It’s looking to be a record-breaking summer of travel in Europe as a wave of international travelers is bound for the European continent. As countries start to ease travel restrictions and minimize pandemic-related protocols, it looks like travel is set to make a full rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
European international traffic has skyrocketed, with flight numbers and capacity increasing by more than 434.4% in March. That’s not even the highest; in April, international traffic rose by 480% year-over-year.
A wave of chaos has ensued in European countries at international ports of entry. Increased capacity coupled with tight labor market conditions have led to flight cancellations, check-in queues wrapping around buildings, lost luggage, and overcrowded airports.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch carrier KLM stopped selling airline tickets for four days as chaos ensued at Schiphol International Airport throughout April and May. In Dublin, a thousand or so travelers were seen missing their flights after staff shortages led to prolonged waiting times and severe delays.
Across the continent, airports have been overwhelmed by an increasing number of domestic and international passengers. European travel during the pandemic caused major disruptions, as restrictions and border closures saw national tourism plummet to levels never seen before.
Europe’s average road trip package currently stands at $3,960 for a two-week vacation. However, rising gas prices and soaring inflation have meant that American tourists are looking to spend their time abroad rather than cough up more cash than a year before to travel domestically.
After two years of lockdowns, and travel restrictions, millions of passengers finally thought this could be the summer they would be able to enjoy abroad, but major bottlenecks in the system could prove otherwise.
Where Are Travelers Going?
While the situation is the same on both ends of the Atlantic, American airlines such as Delta, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines are already cutting back on the number of daily flights this summer.
According to the American Express Travel: 2022 Global Travel Trends Report, 62% of respondents plan on taking between two to four trips in 2022. The same report indicates that 81% of those surveyed have already planned to travel to international destinations where they can immerse themselves in the local culture.
According to the latest statistics, the western and southern regions of Europe have seen the sharpest uptick in travelers. This falls partially in areas where cities are located on the coast of the Mediterranean Ocean, offering visitors a not-so relaxed holiday by the beach.
The third most popular region currently is central and eastern Europe, but the sudden slowdown could be the result of ongoing geopolitical tension between Russia and Ukraine. Overall, it’s been a busy start to the season so far, with a major influx of tourists now flocking to major hotspots across the continent.
Workers Are Quitting in Droves
The Great Resignation at the start of April 2021 saw millions of full-time employees quitting en masse, looking to pursue new employment routes. In Europe, airport employees have also been quitting in droves, as increased flights have pushed them to work longer and more tiring shifts.
In Italy, most recently, several air traffic controllers walked off work for more than 24 hours, stating that poor labor conditions leave them with no option but to halt operations.
Soon afterward, a unionized strike by UIL Transporti saw more than 360 flights being disrupted and 4,000 passengers being impacted by the strike.
The strike caused carriers such as ITA Airways, EasyJet, and Ryanair to cut back on a number of flights to and from major Italian hubs.
A tight labor market has meant that ground handler staff are in high demand. British Airways has been looking to attract new hires by offering them a £1,000 sign-on bonus. The job ad states that candidates should be willing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – an intimidating job ad, at least.
European travel guides could make up for the lost time and revenue during the height of the pandemic, when most flights were canceled, and international borders were closed to most international tourism.
Worker shortages have caused a major bottleneck at airports, seeing flights being canceled, luggage being lost, and adding hours to check-in and boarding times. But this is only the start, and it looks to only get worse in the coming months.
What Should Travelers Expect?
While it’s not certain when airports and carriers will be able to keep up with the sudden surge in travel, passengers should be in for a chaotic summer of travel. People are more eager than ever before to travel.
According to a recent poll by World Nomads, 41% of Americans stated that ‘nothing will stop them from traveling in the upcoming season.’ This exasperated response reveals the eagerness and length people are willing to go this summer to spend time abroad.
At the current rate at which numbers are increasing, passengers could perhaps see longer delays at airports and more canceled flights. At the end of May, Delta Air Lines claimed they would cut 100 flights per day in an ongoing effort to minimize the strain airports and staff are currently experiencing.
The significant flight cut would result in a sudden surge in ticket prices, but even that may not change the number of daily arrivals across Europe.
Looking forward, it seems this summer will only bring more problems and delays for passengers as they set off on their travels. But after two years of stringent COVID regulations, this sudden boom in tourism is just what the industry needs.
A Final Thought
While traveling may not be the same, for now at least, it’s clear that we’re in for a chaotic season of leisure. Everything from flights, car rentals and hotel bookings are seeing skyrocketing numbers of tourists, a much-needed relief after the headwinds caused by the pandemic.
In Europe and the United States, where arrivals have seen record-shattering numbers, it’s possible that closer to the end of July and mid-August, most of the activity will have started to cool down. But all-in-all, the mayhem could perhaps become our new normal, and travelers are more open to adapting to the current conditions, as it’s looking to be one of the busiest seasons on record.
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