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International airlines launch battle plans to tackle the summer of travel chaos

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American Airlines canceled “at short notice” in July, while easyJet changed its schedule as airports announced passenger capacity limits.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

The airline industry has been in disarray since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now a perfect storm of strikes and staff shortages are forcing airlines to step up their battle plans to offset a summer of travel chaos.

About 90,000 jobs were cut at US airlines when global mobility ground to a halt in 2020, while easyJet and Airbus were among the European companies designing personnel.

Passenger numbers for leisure and business flights have since risen above the pre-pandemic number. However, those money-saving cuts have turned into devastating deficits.

British Airways on Tuesday suspended sales of short-haul flights from London’s Heathrow after the airport asked airlines to cut passenger numbers.

What are other airlines doing this summer?

Schedule adjustments

Dutch airline KLM will limit the sale of tickets flying from Amsterdam in September and October after Schiphol Airport has imposed a limit on the number of departing passengers.

The airline “does not expect cancellations to be necessary” to meet the limits imposed by the airport, but warns that “there will be fewer seats available on the Dutch market than usual”.

German airline Lufthansa adjusted its schedule at the beginning of the summer, canceling 3,000 flights from Frankfurt and Munich. The early changes were made with the aim of “relieving the burden on the overall system and providing a stable flight schedule,” the airline said.

The airline also canceled more than 1,000 flights due to a ground staff strike in July. There is currently no capacity limitation for passenger numbers.

Low-cost airline easyJet changed its timetable in June after Schiphol and London Gatwick Airport announced passenger capacity limits. Since then, “operations have normalized”, according to easyJet, and performance is “now at 2019 levels”.

American Airlines has canceled some “short-term” due to Heathrow’s passenger limit, the company said, but made no mention of future disruption when UKTN was asked for comment.

Swiss International canceled some upcoming flights scheduled between July and October in July. The airline said the changes had become “necessary due to known restrictions in air traffic control in Europe, restrictions on ground and airport service providers worldwide, as well as SWISS.”

Business as usual

Dubai’s Emirates airline has made no changes to its schedules or passenger numbers after refusing to comply with Heathrow’s capacity restriction requests in July.

Austrian Airlines is carrying out its summer flight schedule “as planned”.

Meanwhile, Irish airline Ryanair says it has “no plans to limit passenger numbers” and that capacity is currently 115% of pre-Covid numbers.

However, the recovery remains “fragile,” said Chief Executive Michael O’Leary.

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