Summer of discontent ahead for air travellers

Dublin Airport is far from the only European travel hub experiencing staffing issues

Two years of pandemic-related upheaval should have taught would-be tourists to expect the unexpected. But with European air travel heading into a summer of discontent, there could be more problems in store.

Trouble is most certainly brewing on the industrial relations front within the aviation sector. A host of unions representing Ryanair cabin crew in Spain, Portugal and Italy announced strikes this week. So far, four unions have announced walkouts over a three-day period at the end of June.

Although the Michael O’Leary-led carrier has played down the likelihood of disruption, several industrial actions have already forced the cancellation of numerous European flights this summer.

But it is not just a Ryanair problem — neither are grievances over pay and conditions contained within the cohort of people working at 35,000ft. “If I was a passenger or consumer, I wouldn’t worry too much about the airlines. I’d worry about the airports,” said Eoin Coates, head of aviation at the European Transport Workers’ Federation, this week.


Dublin Airport, a scene of chaos earlier this month, is far from the only European travel hub dealing with staffing issues this summer, it seems. It’s a problem across the board and European ground staff, many of whom remain on reduced levels of pay after the pandemic, are being overwhelmed as the summer rush begins. “We can’t get people to fill jobs loading planes, fuelling planes. The industry just can’t get the staff,” Coates said.

It means airport staff are working “harder than ever”, he said, but for less money in many cases, and European unions have “had enough”.

Just last week, ground staff at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris held half a day of strikes, leading to the cancellation of more than 100 flights.

Unions are now calling for a second day of action in early July. “We really are on the brink,” Coates said.