Paris airport staff call off strikes but travellers face more cancelled flights chaos

Lufthansa, KLM and SAS cut hundreds of slots amid industry staff shortages

Planned strikes by airport staff in Paris have been cancelled. EPA / CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON
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Workers with France's main airport operator ADP and firefighters at Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport have called off strikes planned for the weekend.

These were expected to spark major chaos at the start of the French summer holiday period.

“I remain cautious but there have been very important talks, supported by the state, between the workers and the management, at ADP, also at [railway operator] SNCF, that led to purchasing power measures”, French Transport Minister Clement Beaune told BFM TV on Friday.

“We're still working closely with ADP to ensure everything goes smoothly at the start of the summer holiday. We will do everything to avoid strike actions during the summer,” he said.

Three days of strikes last week at Charles de Gaulle left tens of thousands of bags stranded at France’s biggest international hub.

Mr Beaune said it could take a week to clear the thousands of remaining items of baggage.

Meanwhile, airlines in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands have announced more cancellations.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France KLM, on Friday said it will scrap up to 20 daily flights to European destinations because of staff shortages.

KLM and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which serves as KLM's hub, have been unable to fill thousands of jobs since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schiphol has asked airlines to cut thousands of daily passengers to ease the pressure.

“Work pressure at the airport is currently relentless, as Schiphol and KLM are both faced with staff shortages. KLM’s measures are intended to restore operational stability, thereby relieving pressure on staff at Schiphol and KLM,” the airline said.

KLM on Friday said it will cut 10-20 daily flights through August.

Germany's Lufthansa said it will cancel several hundred flights next week.

Scandinavian airline SAS cancelled almost 70 per cent of its flights on Friday as a pilots strike stranded thousands of tourists overseas.

Some 181 flights were cancelled on Friday, data from flight tracker FlightAware showed.

SAS has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights since Monday when talks between the airline and pilots over a new collective bargaining agreement collapsed.

The carrier, whose biggest owners are the Swedish and the Danish states, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US this week.

An SAS spokeswoman said about 18 aircraft were set to repatriate stranded travellers on Friday, while a negotiator for the Dansk Metal trade union, representing Danish pilots, said unions were still seeking assurances the planes would be used for no other purpose.

Passenger aircraft, operated by SAS AB, on the tarmac at Copenhagen Airport in Copenhagen, Denmark. Carsten Snejbjerg / Bloomberg

SAS' striking pilots have said they would consider pay cuts, but cannot accept the airline hiring new pilots through two new subsidiaries, under what unions say are worse terms.

As travel rebounds from pandemic lows, strikes and staff shortages are forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and causing hours-long queues at major airports across Europe.

On Thursday, unions said British Airways' check-in staff at London's Heathrow Airport had suspended a planned strike, after the airline agreed to a “vastly” improved pay offer.

The staffing crisis in Europe has led to Turkey tightening conditions covering Turkish pilots who resign and move abroad to work for foreign airlines.

The Turkish civil aviation authority said a letter of consent from their previous employer will be necessary for pilots who want to work for foreign airlines.

If a pilot resigns without a consent letter, then their application for verification will not be processed for six months by the authority, it said.

Last month, Germany said it will fast-track work permits and visas for several thousand foreign airport workers, mainly from Turkey, to help to ease summer travel chaos.

Updated: July 09, 2022, 5:03 AM