Why Europe Travel Is Such a Mess

Why Europe Travel Is Such a Mess Now

Liz Morgan arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport four-and-a-half hours before her flight to Athens, finding the line for security snaking out of the terminal and into a big tent along a road before doubling back inside the main building.

“There’s elderly people in the queues, there’s kids, babies. No water, no nothing. No signage, no one helping, no toilets,” said Morgan, who is from Australia and had tried to save time Monday by checking in online and taking only a carry-on bag.

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People “couldn’t get to the toilet because if you go out of the queue, you lost your spot,” she said.

After two years of pandemic restrictions, travel demand has roared back, but airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. With the busy summer tourism season underway in Europe, passengers are encountering chaotic scenes at airports, including lengthy delays, canceled flights, and headaches over lost luggage.

Schiphol, the Netherlands’ busiest airport, is trimming flights, saying there are thousands of airline seats per day above the capacity that security staff can handle. Dutch carrier KLM apologized for stranding passengers there this month. It could be months before Schiphol has enough staff to ease the pressure, Ben Smith, CEO of airline alliance Air France-KLM, said Thursday.

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London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports are asking airlines to cap their flight numbers. Discount carrier easyJet is scrapping thousands of summer flights to avoid last-minute cancellations and in response to caps at Gatwick and Schiphol. North American airlines wrote to Ireland’s transport chief demanding urgent action to tackle “significant delays” at Dublin’s airport.

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