Why is there chaos in airports around the world including Montreal?
The passport situation in Montreal was not the only example of the general chaos that reigns in airports. Around the world, thousands of flights have been canceled and hundreds of thousands of passengers have had their journeys disrupted. McGill University Lecturer John Gradek sheds some light on the current challenges facing the air travel industry.
ANALYSIS – People around the world are eager to start traveling again as pandemic restrictions have been lifted. But those planning to fly to their vacation destination have been frustrated by the chaos in the airline industry.
In both North America and Europe, thousands of flights have been canceled and hundreds of thousands of passengers have had their journeys disrupted. Montreal-Trudeau airport is not to be outdone: there are countless lost luggage, delayed or canceled flights, delays of all kinds.
Here are the answers to some major questions about the difficulties encountered in the air travel industry.
Why are so many flights canceled or delayed?
The main cause of these disruptions is the lack of qualified personnel at airports to cope with the recent increase in passenger traffic.
Airlines have taken advantage of recent travel demand to restore the number aircraft and flight schedules to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels. The resulting volume of flights strains the capacity of the supporting infrastructure – airports, air traffic control and working conditions.
Air travel, calculated by the number of kilometers traveled by paying passengers, began to recover after the lifting of restrictions linked to the pandemic. (International Air Transport Association)
These do situations only occur at certain airports or is this a global problem?
The congestion phenomenon observed during the 2022 summer travel season is rapidly spreading at a number of European and North American airports. The underlying reason is quite simple: the current airline market has seen the highest passenger volumes in recent months.
The accelerated disappearance of Covid-19 protocols in this sector since March has generated a considerable increase in demand for air travel, with passenger volumes not seen for more than two years. This increase was particularly visible in the hub airports of major airlines, such as Amsterdam, London, New York, Toronto or Montreal, where tens of thousands of passengers pass through every day.
Are all these issues pandemic-related?
When the global air travel market crashed in March 2020 With the introduction of travel restrictions and border closures, the commercial aviation sector has taken steps to conserve cash and maintain a minimum workforce.
Hundreds of thousands of aviation workers have been fired or furloughed; the commercial aviation community has lost years of experience and technical expertise.
Governments around the world have provided more than US$200 billion in financial support to help the sector maintain minimal service and avoid financial collapse.
When demand for air travel picked up last March, intensive recruitment began, but in a very different work environment. People who left in 2020 mostly turned to other career options and no longer had much incentive to return to a sector characterized by lower pay and increased occupational risk. The origin of the staff shortage is therefore the pandemic, and it will continue to impact employment levels when travel resumes.
How many people are traveling today compared to last year, and compared to the pre-pandemic period?
The International Air Transport Association publishes statistics on air travel volumes in various global markets. Significant differences were found compared to 2021 and pre-pandemic levels.
The air travel sector that has seen the strongest recovery is domestic flights in North America: in April 2022, trips increased by more than 280% compared to April 2021 traffic levels, but remain slightly lower by more than 30% compared to April 2019.
In China's domestic market, the prolonged pandemic-related travel restriction and occasional city closures have led to an almost 80% drop in the traffic in April 2022, compared to April 2021 and 2019.
What to do to avoid delays?
A number of solutions can be applied to remedy the current number of delays.
European authorities have announced targeted flight reductions, while the US government is threatening to impose them in order to reduce flight cancellations as much as possible.
The Canadian government has hosted a meeting with key aviation organizations in Canada to discuss a concerted and effective resolution. Air Canada has announced measures to ease congestion at Toronto's Pearson and Montreal's Trudeau airports.
Canadian government officials have also signaled their intention to hire nearly 2,000 additional people to provide border security and control to resolve one-time congestion issues. Labor groups doubt that such measures will solve congestion problems.
The main obstacle is the volume of passengers drawn into the airport environment by the number of flights offered by the airlines. The latter have decided to increase their capacity to meet the high demand for air travel, but the infrastructure of the airports is not equipped to handle such volumes.
This enthusiasm on the part of the airline sector is commendable in a context where adequate and experienced personnel are available at airports. But that's not the case now and it won't be in the foreseeable future.
How long How long will this situation last?
The summer vacation season is in full swing in the northern hemisphere. Additional airline capacity and increased demand for air travel from a travel-deprived population will continue at least through September.
Unless measures being considered by U.S., European and Canadian carriers result in a reduction in peak loads associated with aircraft movements at major hubs, primarily in North America and Western Europe, the congestion and delays will continue, and may even get worse.
It will be necessary to wait until the fall for the situation to improve, with the demand for air travel decreasing at the start of the school year. Staff numbers will also reach required levels by then, with the return to normal commercial flight operations.
Other factors that may reduce demand include increased airfares due to inflation and rising oil prices, which could jeopardize the survival of some airlines.
What advice would you give air passengers over the next few months?
Airport authorities are providing advice to travelers on how best to prepare for summer travel, including information on how to avoid delays at security checks.
This summer, to face this period of disruption, I recommend that air passengers exercise patience, ensure that they are well rested before going to the airport and remember that airline employees live also moments of daily stress.
A smile, a thank you and, above all, a caring attitude towards other travelers and staff are in order. The air travel experience just got better!
John Gradek, Lecturer and Program Coordinator, Supply Chain, Logistics and Warehouse Management operations, Mcgill University.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.