Holidaymakers brace for summer of disruption at Swiss airports
As travel disruption gripped airports in the Netherlands and the UK, there was hope that Switzerland could avoid most of the flight delays and cancellations this summer. Now, airports in Switzerland and aviation experts have warned of travel chaos in Zurich, Geneva and Basel between now and August, due to staff shortages.
Swiss airlines not prepared for passenger numbers this summer
“The situation has worsened this year because there is a shortage of staff at handling companies at airports. Not all check-ins are open and some luggage cannot be cleared,” said Andreas Wittmer, head of the Aviation Competence Centre in St. Gallen. He said that a lack of workers and high demand will put increasing pressure on larger airports this summer. “The aviation industry miscalculated and sold too many flights. The supply is higher than can be managed,” he explained.
While experts do not think there will be scenes in Zurich similar to those at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which has faced continual disruption and flight cancellations over the past few weeks, travel expert Andreas Wehrli predicted that Swiss airports will also experience significant delays and disruption. "There are already long queues [at Zurich Airport], which should get worse in the coming weeks," he said.
Travellers from Swiss airports should expect delays, says EasyJet boss
In Geneva, authorities expect the number of flights during July and August to be near pre-COVID levels. This is despite the fact the airport has fewer staff to handle the coming surge than it did before the pandemic.
Jean-Marc Thévenaz, general manager of EasyJet Switzerland, said that passengers should “expect delays and cancellations, especially at the end of the day,” at all airports in Swiss cities and those abroad. Many airlines, like SWISS and EasyJet, have already announced flight cancellations this summer, reasoning that fewer services will reduce delays.
Passengers advised to arrive early for flights leaving Switzerland
What all experts agree on is that the situation will only fully resolve itself once more people are employed at airports. Stefan Brülisauer, regional secretary of the Association of Public Service Personnel, said that a lack of staff has led to high-stress levels for airport employees, which in turn has led to more applications for sick leave, making staff shortages worse. “It’s a vicious cycle,” he noted.
Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for Swissport, the main baggage handler for airlines worldwide, said that 850 new jobs had been created in Switzerland to cope with the new influx and that once all furloughed employees are re-signed on full-time work contracts, they expect significantly fewer luggage-related delays in Zurich and Basel.
However, both Swissport and SWISS advised those travelling this summer to arrive up to three hours early for flights, perform any mandatory COVID tests as early as possible and pack and arrange luggage properly before security.