Approximately 10% of all flights departing Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport have been cancelled, as a result of strikes by ground personnel on Thursday and Friday of this week.
As airline traffic begins to return to pre-pandemic figures, there are calls for serious wage increases across the board, in order to offset the ever-mounting inflation – which has hit an astounding 6.5% in France in June. Furthermore, the CGT trade union is demanding a 300€ wage increase per month for all staff.
These demands come as airlines are finding it difficult to recruit staff, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this, the French Aviation Authority has requested that airlines cancel 1 in 6 flights on Friday, between 7:00 am local time and 2:00 pm.
Thursday saw only ADP workers striking, but Friday included airport strikes from airline staff, subcontractors and other airport-related staff, joining the industrial action. The first airport strike occurred earlier this month (June 9th), consisting of 1,500 strikers. According to the CGT, 20% of the morning flights that day had to be cancelled.
Additionally, ground handling agent Loris Foreman shared his thoughts on the current situation.
“Salaries need to go up, by not two or three percent, but by 15 to 20 percent […] When you start at 5:00 am, or work odd hours all the time, this leads to burn-out and at the moment, there a lots of airport staff who are on sick leave for depression.”
Foreman also adds that his wages now leave him unable to live comfortably anymore, resulting in the scouring supermarkets for promotions on food items and never fully filling his car’s fuel tank.
He acknowledges the pain that these strikes are causing passengers, but he feels as though this is the only option.
“Yes, we know that we are taking passengers hostage, but we need to make our voice heard and the only way to do that is with a strike,” he said.
Further Strikes Across Europe
In fact, various European airlines and airports have experienced strikes in recent weeks and further travel disruptions are to be expected in the coming month, as airline workers use strong and staff shortages, caused partly by the COVID-19 pandemic to push for higher wages and better working conditions.
Reuters also reported that airports and cities such as London, Amsterdam, Rome and Frankfurt have been dealing with numerous flight cancellations and disastrously large queues. In fact, EasyJet and Ryanair crews are expected to conduct a walkout in some of Europe’s busiest travel destinations, on June 30th, as well as July 1st and 2nd.
Staff working for the budget airline walked out on Thursday, leaving 54 cancelled flights to and from Spanish destinations, with airports in Barcelona and Malaga the worst affected, according to the USO union.
Havoc at Heathrow
Moreover, Heathrow Airport cancelled 30 flights on Thursday, which were due to depart, leaving up to 6,400 passengers stranded. A spokesperson for Heathrow said this was due to staff shortages, as the airport struggles with industry-wide resourcing issues in the face of soaring demand.
Passengers at airports across the UK have also faced huge queues at airports, long flight delays, and baggage issues.
The staff shortages are largely due to Covid-19, which brought the travel industry to a standstill as holidays were banned and strict travel regulations were brought in. This meant industry-wide cuts to the workforce including cabin crew, ground staff and pilots.