The air travel industry has been in troubled waters as of late. Staff shortages and other operational issues coupled with the heavy influx in passenger traffic created a perfect storm of travel disruption – continuous delays, cancellations and turbulent travel in airports. 

A chaotic summer awaits many airlines, even though most have managed to control the matter by cutting down their original summer schedule. 

But according to Ryanair Chief Executive Eddie Wilson, due to air traffic control, flight delays could continue until next summer. 

More to come?

Since international travel resumed across the vast majority of the globe at the beginning of this year, the aviation industry has been hit with a wave of frustrating delays and cancellations. 

Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to staff shortages and even more have been delayed, leaving travellers stranded in some cases. 

It hasn’t been just airlines who have had to alter their normal running to cope. Airports including London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol have been forced to put a cap on the number of passengers that can depart from their airports this summer. As of yesterday, Schiphol has extended its cap on passengers until this November at the latest. And at the end of July, London Heathrow extended its cap on passengers to 29 October

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is the 11th busiest airport in the world and acts as a hub for KLM. | © Robin Utrecht/EPA via Shutterstock

Ryanair boss Eddie Wilson warned that the future isn’t the brightest when it comes to the level of disruption we’ve faced decreasing next summer. Wilson considered air traffic control as the “underlying problem across Europe” and added that disruption will continue until next summer “unless they get their acts together now.”

Speaking with the times, Wilson added that while airports are attempting to ease the strain by limiting the number of passengers departing over the summer, travellers are still being greeted by unwanted delays. 

“There is about 10 or 15 percent less traffic this summer in Europe compared to 2019, yet they still can’t handle it and we’ve got the worst delays ever.”

Air Traffic Control
Eddie Wilson is concerned that air traffic control shortages and disruptions are making matters worse for airports and airlines. | © AP Photo / Chief Owen

So, what’s the issue with air traffic control? 

Wilson said that a number of factors were to blame for the air traffic control delays, including an upgrade to French air traffic control systems over the summer and staffing issues at a “major” air traffic control facility based in Germany. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February only made matters worse according to the Chief Executive, as the closure of airspaces in and around Russia and Ukraine has “squeezed an awful lot more traffic south.” 

Ryanair typically operates from regional airports more than its competitors. As a result, they are less likely to be impacted too negatively by passenger caps in major airports like Heathrow. But this also means that the majority of their delays are most likely to be caused by air traffic control issues, possibly offering a reason as to why the matter is on Wilson’s mind. 

Pretty plain sailing 

Ryanair has not struggled with staff shortages and subsequent delays and cancellations nearly as much as its rivals. Late June saw the low-cost carrier offer extra “rescue” flights from the UK to make up for the cancellations from British Airways, TUI and easyJet

And in July, the Dublin-based airline shared that June was its busiest month on record, suggesting a positive recovery following the pandemic. 

Ryanair
Ryanair has not struggled with crippling delays and cancellations as much as its competitors this year. | © Sky News

What do you make of Eddie Wilson’s comments? And how often (if at all) do you fly with Ryanair? Comment below to let us know!

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