“We should not be under any illusions, we will be understaffed to get through the summer. Clearly, there will be additional expectations at the controls and elsewhere,” warned Thomas Juin, president of the Union of French airports to Le Figaro.
There have been chaotic scenes at airports around Europe in recent weeks, and unions warn that France is likely to face similar problems this summer.
In the Paris region, travellers at Charles de Gaulle were already reporting long queues at the beginning of May.
So far, Orly airport has not seen its capacities “overflowing” but it is already “under tension.” The airport’s director, Sandra Lignais, told Le Figaro, she is attempting to stay “vigilant” on the situation.
Juin expects that at some airports in the Paris region, such as Beauvais, traffic will be “even higher than in 2019.”
The Paris region appears to be most impacted by longer than average wait times, with fewer complaints being registered in France’s regional airports. However, the shortage of airport staff is industry-wide, so it would still be recommendable to arrive early.
Since 2020, French airports have lost “15 to 20 percent of their staff,” explained Juin. During the height of the pandemic, many airline workers were either let go, left the industry, or were given part-time work options.
National airline Air France cut almost 20 percent of its workforce during the pandemic – the equivalent to 7,500 jobs.
The Paris airports of Orly and Charles de Gaulle alone need to fill about 4,000 positions. However, the Airports of Paris group told BFM Business that they are experiencing “enormous” recruitment difficulties.
Several sectors – incuding tourism, hospitality, construction and healthcare – have warned about increasing staff shortages.
ANALYSIS: What is behind France’s worker shortage?
Wait-times when going through customs is also an issue, as there has been a decrease in the number of border police present at the airports.
In addition to a shortage of candidates, training delays make it difficult to fill positions quickly, especially for people working in airport security jobs that require three to five months of on-the-job training. The summer also poses a challenging time to recruit, as many would-be workers have already scheduled holidays.
France’s Charles de Gaulle airport still advises passengers to “be at the airport 2 hours before the departure of your flight in order to drop off your luggage and complete all police and security formalities.”
However, the airport’s website warns passengers to check their boarding pass as well, because they will indicate more specific boarding time instructions, “according to the busy periods at the airport.”
Several passengers on long-haul flights, including to the USA, told The Local that they had been instructed to be at the airport three-and-a-half hours in advance – and had needed all that time to get through security and boarding queues.
“I arrived 3 hours early and nearly didn’t make it,” one reader said. “The lines were confusing. A few stations seemed to be understaffed.”
Over the Ascension weekend British airline Easyjey cancelled many flights, blaming IT problems.
Dutch airline KLM announced on May 26th that it would be suspending ticket sales for all flights out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport until Monday because of staff shortages.
Reuters reports that in recent weeks, lines from the Schiphol airport have been hours long, stretching all the way outdoors and onto the streets. Travellers from Stockholm, Dublin and Manchester airports have also reported long queues.
Rafael Schvartzman, the International Air Transport Association’s regional vice president for Europe, told Euronews that as of March, the aviation industry was already seeing 75 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger numbers, and that “this is a sign of what is to come for this summer,” predicting heavy traffic.
What have your air travel experiences been like in recent weeks? Did you wait in any particularly long lines while departing from French airports? We would love to hear from you – please email [email protected]