Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid

Over the weekend, dozens of Austrian Airlines flights had to be cancelled on short notice due to staff taking sick leave after catching Covid-19.

Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid
Passengers on Austrian Airlines flights between Vienna, Munich and Frankfurt have been impacted by the strike at Lufthansa. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austrian Airlines cancelled almost 100 out of 700 planned flights to and from Vienna over the weekend after a large number of employees called in sick with Covid-19, ORF reported.

On Monday, 19 flights also had to be cancelled.

The airliner said that it has already hired 150 flight attendants to assist with the high summer months demand. It said that thunderstorms and an air traffic control strike in Marseille, France, also affected the weekend operations.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Austrian Airlines added that efforts are being made to prevent the cancellation of classic holiday flights. The affected flights are mainly local or to destinations in Europe such as Berlin, Stuttgart, Zurich, Barcelona, or Sofia.

A press spokeswoman for Austrian Airlines told the Ö1 programme that passengers would be informed immediately if their flight changed and rebooked on other flights if possible.

Nevertheless, AUA recommends its passengers check the flight status online at before driving to the airport.

Vienna airport reassures travellers

Austrian Airlines and the Vienna airport had reassured travellers that they were prepared for the summer, as The Local reported.

The spokesperson for the Vienna International Airport has told Austrian media that there were no issues with staff shortages. They currently have about 80 percent of personnel from before the pandemic – while passenger levels are at about 65 to 70 percent of those from 2019.

READ ALSO: Vienna airport reassures travellers over summer holiday concerns

Vienna Schwechat Airport says there were no staff cuts during the pandemic, though some workers quit and others retired.

Also, Austrian Airlines said it has hired 150 new cabin staff for the spring and summer seasons and is “ready for take-off into a summer in full operation”.

Still, both companies had alerted that problems could still arise. For example, issues with other airports were mentioned as possible causes for delays and cancellations.

READ ALSO: Will Austria see travel chaos in airports this summer?

“In Vienna, our partners and we succeeded, particularly through the instrument of short-time work, to keep as many personnel as to possible in employment. But, unfortunately, this is not the case at many other airports we also serve,” explained Austria Airlines spokeswoman Sophie Matkovits.

Covid numbers rising

Another issue is the rising Covid-19 numbers in Austria. According to the Health Ministry, a person who tests positive for Covi-19 needs to go into self-isolation for at least five days.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

Contact cases also need to quarantine if they are suspected of being infected meaning they cannot work and many parents of children who contact Covid can also not work due to having to stay at home and look after their children.

On Sunday, Austria reported 7,093 new coronavirus infections after 80,771 PCR tests, according to the Health Ministry. There were 686 people in hospitals with Covid-19 and 46 were in intensive care units.

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EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example.