Airlines not ruling out further disruption as Aer Lingus cancels more flights

Strikes, bottlenecks and Covid hit air travel at the weekend

Aer Lingus cancelled flights to Brussels and Amsterdam on Monday as problems that disrupted air travel at the weekend continued.

Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair cancelled flights over the weekend as a consequence of various issues around Europe, including air traffic control strikes.

On Monday, Aer Lingus cancelled two services from Dublin to Amsterdam and Brussels, as it grappled with the same problems.

An Aer Lingus spokeswoman said the airline was not planning any further cancellations, but cautioned that the challenges that hit air travel at the weekend remain.

In a statement, the company noted that pressure from air traffic control strikes, ongoing labour shortages suffered by airports and aviation service companies, forced it to cancel flights.

“This pressure on the system has been compounded by a spike in Covid cases among our own teams in the last number of days,” Aer Lingus explained.

The airline said it had offered to re-accommodate affected passengers on alternative services following the cancellation of its various flights.

The problems forced Aer Lingus to cancel flights from Dublin to London, Lyon in France and popular sunspots Faro in Portugal and Split in Croatia. It also cancelled flights to Dublin from London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Aer Lingus intends restoring 90 per cent of pre-Covid seat numbers this year and maintains that it began planning for this last autumn, including building in “appropriate buffers”.

Flight cancellations at major European airports have dogged air travel’s post-pandemic recovery as many of them are struggling to find enough staff to cope with a surge in passengers.

Ryanair blamed French air traffic control strikes for “minor disruption” at the weekend that forced it to cancel flights in Spain, Italy, the UK and France.

“Air traffic control issues will remain a massive problem for all airlines across Europe and will inevitably cause further travel disruption to EU passengers throughout the summer,” the Irish carrier said.

Ryanair and the group’s chief executive Michael O’Leary have repeatedly called for restrictions on air traffic control strikes over the years.

The airline has also sought alternative measures that would allow airlines to continue flying through French air space when that country’s controllers take industrial action.

France’s position and size mean many European flights travel through its skies, even if they are not landing there, so air traffic control strikes there can hit services between other countries.

Carriers including Ryanair and Aer Lingus parent, International Consolidated Airlines’ Group, warned last month that strikes, airport bottlenecks and Covid-19 could all threaten air travel’s recovery this summer.

After a slow start to the year, air travel has rebounded in the Republic and across Europe, as many families head for the sun for the first time since 2019.

Dublin Airport expects June and July passenger numbers to surpass totals hit during those months in 2019, a year when it handled a record 32.9 million passengers.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas