Considering the impact the pandemic had on air traffic, lots of people decided to postpone their traveling plans for the last two summers.
Unfortunately, different factors are going to make this summer a nightmare for the 150 million passengers on the 700 000 flights planned for July and August, either departing from or arriving in France.
90% of travelers of 2019
Although some destinations and borders are still restricted or closed, the number of passengers who booked flights this summer has almost reached its pre-pandemic level. Nonetheless, the radical decisions that were taken by the airline industry have much aggravated the already existing tensions within the sector.
Where do these tensions come from ? What consequences on the passengers should we fear this summer ? What are the rights of the passengers in case of traffic disruption ?
A lack of staff affecting the entire sector
Many employees had to find work in different fields during the pandemic. Besides, enough means were not implemented to allow the recruitment of the required staff on time and cope with the current recovery in air traffic.
This lack of staff is affecting the entire airline industry as well as pilots and flight crews, ground staff, maintenance staff and air traffic controllers.
Airlines and airports no longer have sufficient on-call staff to deal with possible scheduling issues, sick leaves or mechanical breakdowns. The phenomenon has become so widespread that airlines are lacking resources to honor the many bookings already made.
Thousands of passengers have already been notified that their flights cannot be operated this summer.
We can already count :
- The Lufthansa group (Lufthansa, Brussel Airlines, Swiss International, Eurowings), who has cancelled more than a 1000 flights departing from Germany, Belgium and Spain
- British Airways, who has been forced to cancel over 8000 flights throughout Europe
- Ryanair, who has cancelled over 600 flights in Italy
- Gatwick, Schiphol and Dublin airports, which will have to limit the number of available flight slots during July and August
Strike notices within every airline
Pilots, cabin crews, ground staff : all these corporations have given strike notices in many airports and airlines all throughout summer.
As a result, some cancellations and delays are expected and the rebooking and assistance of the concerned passengers will be particularly difficult to handle for the airlines.
We can already count :
- A strike notice given by the pilots of Air France and Transavia
- Strike notices of at least 6 days given by Ryanair’s cabin crew and starting at the beginning of July in France and Spain
- A strike notice at « Aéroport de Paris » Group, affecting Roissy and Orly airports from the beginning of July, lasting for an indefinite period.
And new strike notices are issued everyday.
Before these announcements, some states such as the United Kingdom have compelled the airlines to cancel thousands of flights by anticipation, to make sure the travelers would be able to reorganise.
And staff members sometimes grounded
To this already very tense situation, there are also accreditation issues : many pilots or cabin crew members have not been able to fly as much as the sector rules required them to and so lost their accreditations. Many found themselves compelled to go back to training classes before they were allowed to fly again. Unfortunately, these classes are overbooked which makes the accreditation delays even longer.
Some destinations or aircrafts that require these specific approvals find themselves under even more tension.
Profitability over brand image
It is very likely that historically marginal practices become commonplace in a context in where profitability has become a priority over passengers’ wellness, brand image and regulatory obligations.
Overbooking should continue to increase over the summer but it is overall the cancellations for financial optimisation that are likely to be the travelers’ nightmare.
Many passengers are indeed at risk of being tossed from one flight to another to ensure the maximum filling of aircrafts. Some who bought their tickets at the lowest price possible might see their bookings cancelled and then refunded at the last minute. Having already made commitments, these passengers will have no other choice but to book other tickets at fares that will have risen significantly in the meantime.
“We have been noticing for a couple of years a significant rise of this practice, but it is unfortunately very complicated to prove its intentional nature.
We cannot list the airlines we identified as using this kind of practice” explains Elise Marolleau, legal manager at RefundMyTicket.
Reminder on passengers rights
The European Regulation 261/2004 sets out passengers’ rights in case of cancellation, delay or overbooking. It regulates the airlines’ obligations and plans a compensation for the passenger depending on the flight’s distance and the number of hours of delay at arrival.
Nonetheless, not all situations that are likely to occur this summer are eligible for compensation.
Thereby, if the cancellation or the delay is due to a strike that is internal to the airline, such as a strike of pilots, cabin crew or ground staff from the airline, compensation will be due to the passenger.
The passengers will then be eligible to a compensation of :
- 250 euros for a flight under 1500 km and delayed for more than 3 hours.
- 400 euros for a flight under 3500 km and delayed for more than 3 hours.
- 600 euros for a flight over 3500 km and delayed for more than 4 hours.
Moreover, articles 8 and 9 of the European Regulation require airlines to refund expenses resulting directly from the cancellation or the delay of the flight, such as the additional hotel nights, meals, taxi fares or the price of the new ticket bought by passengers at their own expense.
On the contrary, in case of an external strike, such as a strike of air traffic control, of the airport personnel or of the baggage handlers, airlines will be released from their obligation to compensate passengers.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that passengers in this situation will be left to their own. Indeed, airlines are still obliged to assist their customers, according to articles 8 and 9 of the European Regulation. Concretely, this means that in case of cancellation, passengers must be given a choice between being refunded the cost of their initial ticket or being rebooked, free of charge, to their final destination, as soon as possible.
Moreover, if other expenses are generated by the cancellation or the delay of the flight, passengers can claim these from the airline, as detailed previously.