Travel industry fears scenes of airport chaos will deter travellers this summer

Some people  in Toronto might think that their airport is unique for the scale of the post-pandemic chaos and delays it is experiencing, but similar scenes are playing out in places like London’s Heathrow, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, Madrid’s Barajas Airport, Dublin Airport and numerous cities in the United States.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye warned that the big issue is staffing and airports’ and airlines’ inability to re-hire the tens of thousands of people that were laid off during the pandemic. The lack of staff has meant they can’t meet the sudden surge in travel demand that is happening now that many COVID restrictions have been lifted.

“What we saw in some airports over the past few weeks is that supply and demand were out of balance… we need to make sure we are planning much better,” he told Yahoo News.

He warned that it could take between 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity.

In Canada, airline and travel executives are blaming the federal government for not anticipating the demand for travel this summer and are calling on Ottawa to lift all remaining COVID measures in order to speed things along.

Monette Pasher, interim president of the Canadian Airports Council, told CTV’s Your Morning that it’s very difficult to fulfill Ottawa’s public health restrictions right now.

“We could manage it when we were in the middle of the pandemic and there weren’t many people moving, but now we’ve turned the corner and we really do need to move forward.”

In a press release issued Thursday by several federal ministers, including Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, the federal government acknowledged that there’s a problem and listed changes they are initiating to solve it.

“We recognize that we have more work to do, particularly for international arrivals at our largest airports, and we will continue to work with all orders of governments and partners to reduce the delays in the travel system,” the statement read.

While Toronto’s Pearson airport is particularly hard hit by delays, other Canadian airports are now starting to see similar scenes. Travellers in Calgary’s YYC are experiencing similar difficulties.

And once the government solves the airport issue, it has to work on the passport backlog that is giving headaches to Canadians who need new travel documents.

Given all the woes that travellers could be facing this summer, some travel agents are worried that news reports are harming consumers’ fragile self-confidence.

“My worry is confidence in the industry will go. People are booking with us in good faith but this is out of our control. This is putting clients off booking,” British travel agent Sara Spillard told Travel Weekly.



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