The expected carnage of travel this summer

(CNN) – Imagine the scene. You’re on your way to the vacation you’ve been dreaming of since early 2020. Your bags are full, you arrive at the airport long ago – only to find lines so long that you end up missing out on the flight you’ve been craving.

This was the situation for more than 1,000 passengers at Dublin Airport last week. The situation was so chaotic that the government called in the airport’s chief executive to make a plan for the rest of the summer, and the airport pledged to pay “out-of-pocket passenger expenses” for missed flights.

It’s not just Dublin. Dutch national carrier KLM stopped selling tickets for four days last week, after chaos at its base, Schiphol, throughout April and May. KLM has also offered existing passengers the opportunity to rebook, if they do not want to deal with long lines at the airport.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has been in shambles since April.

Everett Elzinga/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, UK airports including Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick are making daily headlines for airlines sneaking out of buildings, lost bags and hundreds of canceled flights, notably by British Airways, EasyJet and TUI.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary even told ITV this week that the UK should “bring in the army” to help ease the chaos.
Meanwhile, Delta has pledged to cut 100 flights per day this summer to “reduce disruption,” JetBlue is cutting up to 10% of its schedule, and Alaska Airlines is cutting 2%.

Traveling in the summer is always a challenge, of course, but traveling in the summer of 2022 is on another level.

Experts say it’s a perfect storm: Suddenly we all want to travel, but airlines and airports have laid off staff during the pandemic, and are struggling to find replacements. Simply put: they can’t do business with us.

‘And an indication of things to come’

The lines in Dublin were swaying outside the building.

The lines in Dublin were swaying outside the building.

Niall Carson / PA Images / Getty Images

Of course, experts have been warning about this for a while now. When CNN spoke to consumer rights advocate Christopher Elliott in April, he predicted that the chaos that was already spreading across the US and UK was “a sign of things to come”.

“I hate it when I’m right,” he sighs now. “It’s going pretty much the way I thought it would…and I think it’s only going to get worse.” For some time, he had been advising his readers not to travel to Europe in August.

“I think this is just the beginning of what is going to be a crazy summer,” he says.

“We still have high gas prices, we have record demand putting pressure on the entire system, and we’re still short on pilots. Airlines aren’t quite finished yet in the way they need to.”

For Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, in large part, boils down to the unrelenting cost-cutting of airlines and airports.

“The main thing [causing disruption] It’s the staff,” he says. Then you go to, Why have so many people been abandoned during the pandemic? The disruption isn’t even across the industry. In the UK, Jet2 is having problems but not at the level of British Airways or EasyJet. Ryanair Not too bad either.

“The defense of the airlines is that they haven’t been given enough warning about resuming travel, and there’s probably some fairness in that, but there are clearly some airlines and airports that have been able to get their act together, things are going well, some of them are struggling. From a complete disaster.”

He says reaching the appropriate staffing levels will be impossible unless airlines and airports bid.

“We looked at the wages for check-in jobs being advertised at Gatwick, and it was lower than the wages for the job at [budget supermarket] Lidl,” he says. We’ve also seen it in Dublin. Working conditions at the airport are tough, you are required to work hard hours, on-site parking is not usually free and there is very little incentive when you get paid less than the supermarket [would pay you.]”

British Airways is currently offering a £1,000 login bonus for Heathrow employees. The job listing states that candidates must be “willing and able to work shifts covering 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year”, lift weights up to 32kg, and have “the flexibility to take on British weather jobs”. However, the base salary in the job description is £20,024 ($25,143) – below average and median salaries in the UK (shift pay adds around another £5,000).

Boland also suspects things will only get worse. “It’s hard to predict but what we do know is that we haven’t hit peak travel yet, and there are no short-term solutions to the staff shortage. If those two things are true, it’s very hard to tell airlines’ decisions that they can get away with canceling more flights.

Delaying Britain’s exit from the European Union

Those hoping to travel to locations popular with the British, such as Lisbon, should expect long lines.

Those hoping to travel to locations popular with the British, such as Lisbon, should expect long lines.

allard1 / Adobe Stock

For travelers to the European Union from outside the bloc, there is another problem: Brexit.

As UK travelers used to enjoy freedom of movement in the EU, which means they can travel wherever and whenever they want in the bloc, post-Brexit, they are treated like other arrivals. This means that they take a long time to get their passport stamped (and may be questioned about their travel plans), on arrival and departure. There is a difference between popular destinations among travelers in the UK.

“Passport control queues are spreading across Europe, not only for people arriving at European airports, but also for people trying to travel to the UK,” says Lisa Francesca Nand, who is responsible for travel bulletins.

“The process of stamping every British passport on entry and exit slows things down considerably.”

Nand recently flew from Paris to Malaga in southern Spain, and then from Malaga to the United Kingdom. It says there were no waiting lists for passports for the first flight within the Schengen area. But on the flight from Malaga to London Gatwick, “there were queues around the airport for the non-EU route because there were 20 flights to UK airports leaving that afternoon.”

Another Briton, Victoria Brian, thought she, her partner and two children had left plenty of time by arriving on the return flight to the UK from Lisbon on 2 June. They arrived at 9am on an 11.20am flight with TAP Portugal, checked their bags and passed security without any big queues.

It was then that they made the mistake of sitting with their children, aged 5-10, near the gate area. “We sat in a café instead of sitting at the gate for an hour,” she says.

But exiting the Schengen area necessitates a final passport check, and with Portugal being a huge destination for Brits, the new process means another 30 minute wait. The family arrived at the gate 10 minutes before departure, only to be told that the doors had closed. Brian says about 30 passengers, including elderly people and children, were in the same boat.

When CNN spoke to her, the family was standing in a two-hour queue for passport control to return to Portugal, to pick up their bags and book a new flight at their expense. They actually did the same streak the previous week, upon arrival.

Lisbon airport did not respond to a request for comment.

Carmageddon continues

Renting a car in Miami may not be so affordable this summer.

Renting a car in Miami may not be so affordable this summer.

Be Free / Adobe Stock

If you haven’t booked a rental car yet upon arrival, you may want to rethink your trip.

Just like last year’s Carmageddon, car rental rates are way too high. For August, booking two months in advance, the cheapest week’s rent in popular Porto CNN could find was $582 with a local company or $772 with a multinational, Europcar.

An Italian tour operator told CNN they were unable to get more cars to book in Sardinia in June. Elliott says he’s heard of people who land at LAX during peak times only to find that there isn’t a single car available to rent, whatever the price.

CNN examined the cheapest two-day rentals available this weekend at several major airports. The cheapest we could find was $150 in LAX, $161 in Miami, $167 in Heathrow, $225 in Nice in southern France, and $183 in Venice, Italy.

The situation is so horrific that Christopher Elliott advises you to take a vacation near home, where you can drive your own car, or even take a vacation.

“If you don’t have your own car, go somewhere using mass transit, and go somewhere that allows you to walk or has access to mass transit,” he says. “Save your holiday list for September, October, or November.” He has similar pivotal tips for those finding hotels and booked Airbnbs, and advises looking for long-term business rentals. “I just paid $1,200 for a month in a two-bedroom apartment in Athens – I could have stayed for a week and it would pay for itself,” he says.

Panic on the high seas

Cruises are not immune to what happens elsewhere.

Cruises are not immune to what happens elsewhere.

Rebecca Blackwell/AFP

Cruises were hit hard by the pandemic at first, with crates swarming on board making the ships look like floating Petri dishes.

Now, just as people are ready to dip their toe in the water, the cruise industry is being affected by the same employment issues.

“Cruise ship rehiring is a long process — there are a number of certifications that crew members must have,” says Colin McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.

“This process is taking time, and with the global staff shortage, it is taking longer than usual.” And cruise enthusiasts, she adds, “combat similar supply chain issues” to those on land.

“In extreme cases, this means that some sails had to be canceled if they couldn’t have a crew. But in most cases, it could mean that certain areas have limited hours or that certain items are not available during a certain sailing.”

McDaniel says travel insurance is the best way to mitigate — a cruise line will refund you for a canceled cruise, but not your trip to your point of departure. And there’s one positive aspect when it comes to cruises, she says – as cruise lines are removing capacity limits, there are suddenly more rooms to fill and prices seem “really competitive.”

That’s not the only positive thing, says Rory Boland.

“If you look at the whole context, the majority of people who are traveling this weekend won’t see their flights cancelled,” he says.

“You will probably run into a long line that will not be fun, but you will not miss your flight. Perhaps your experience will not be great, but you will run away.

“I know people are worried that their vacation won’t happen, but it probably will.”

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