Explained: Europe flight disruptions – why is luggage piling up at Heathrow and other airports?


The boom in summer travel, combined with a severe shortage of workers at European airports, is causing a number of inconveniences for passengers, including canceled flights, long queues leading to missed flights and baggage delays. More recently, according to a Bloomberg report, London Heathrow airport, which is one of the most affected, has asked airlines operating in two of its terminals to cancel 10% of their flights.

Why is there a problem at European airports?

When the Covid-19 pandemic emerged two years ago and the aviation industry was badly affected, airlines and airports issued pink slips to workers to cut costs as flights remained grounded for a long time. However, with the pandemic slowly receding, people have started to travel and airlines have started mounting flights. But airport staff have not been hired in line with the increase in traffic. This, in addition to several unions of airport and security workers at European airports striking for better wages, has resulted in a severe labor shortage, leading to disruptions in flight operations.

Which airports are concerned and what are the problems encountered?

These issues have surfaced at some of Europe’s major airport hubs, including London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Brussels Airport, Frankfurt Airport and several others. The most visible problem is delayed baggage. Due to labor shortages, passengers’ baggage is not loaded onto planes on time and several flights depart without carrying their passengers’ baggage. In addition to this, airports are witnessing long queues which cause passengers to miss their flights.

Are the flights also cancelled?

Yes, while London Heathrow has asked airlines to cancel some of their flights to reduce the load, experts anticipate a worsening of the situation in the coming days. “Due to industrial action and the lack of security guards, no flights will take off from Brussels Airport today, Monday 20 June. This case of force majeure does not guarantee the safety of passengers and staff. This decision is necessary to avoid chaotic situations,” Brussels Airport said on Monday.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said it was limiting daily passenger numbers to around 70,000 – 13,500 fewer than airlines had forecast – due to labor shortages.

Are flights to or from India also affected?

Even though Indian carriers’ flights to Europe have not yet been canceled, airlines are facing baggage problems. In a tweet on Sunday, Air India wrote: “Passengers who traveled from London Heathrow by AI130 (to Mumbai) and AI170 (to Amritsar) on 19.06.22 may not be able to collect their baggage at destination airport in India in due to a fault in the baggage system at Heathrow Airport. . Our Heathrow team are working on sending the bags out as a priority. We ask for your understanding”.

Currently, Air India offers flights to London from various points in India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, etc., while Vistara connects Delhi to London and Frankfurt. Air India also serves other European destinations such as Frankfurt and Paris.

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