Will airport chaos continue into the summer? Top tips from industry insiders

We’re all hungry for a holiday. With entry rules coming to an end in many countries and anxieties around travelling easing, a lot of people are hoping to get away this summer.

But the excitement of going abroad has been marred by airport chaos, cancelled flights and hours-long queues. Though travel restrictions may be easing, the recent problems at airports are leaving many uncertain if they should book at all.

So with airlines saying it is very difficult to predict what will happen in the next 12 months, we went to Routes aviation conference to find out their thoughts on travel in the next year.

Will airport chaos continue this summer?

The bad news is that the chaos seen in airports across Europe in recent months looks like it is set to continue.

Airlines are working hard to reshuffle their teams to have enough staff on-hand but as passenger numbers increase over the summer, the problem may get worse. And they say it is mainly to do with staff shortages at the airports where they operate.

Managing director of Airlines For Europe Thomas Raynaert says there is no short term solution. People left the industry during the pandemic for other sectors with better pay, more satisfying work and better conditions. There’s little chance that they will come back.

Because it takes time to train staff in roles like security and baggage handling that are currently lacking people, the problem won’t be fixed quickly.

Rafael Schvartzman, the International Air Transport Association’s regional vice president for Europe, said the situation must be addressed urgently “to avoid frustrating customers.”

He added that it was “unprecedented” to see an airport asking airlines to cancel bookings and reservations into the future – as happened at some airports during the chaos earlier this year.

Why is there so much disruption at Europe’s airports?

Passenger numbers in March were up to 75 per cent of what they were pre-pandemic, IATA says, showing the aviation industry is recovering. Schvartzman explained that this could mean a return to 2019 numbers as early as 2023.

“This is a sign of what is to come this summer,” he said, with projections for a very strong season. But it doesn’t seem like some airports are ready for this increase in traffic.

Many industry experts pointed to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as an example of this under-preparedness. The airport authority here has warned that it will be very busy there every day up to and including summer due to staff shortages.

Staff are threatening strikes due to the working conditions, queues have led to outbreaks of violence and Dutch flag carrier KLM has had to temporarily suspend ticket sales due to the chaos.

“People have waited two, sometimes three years for a holiday and that should not be ruined by a lack of preparedness,” Schvartzman added.

Why is airport chaos a big problem for tour operators?

For those who have booked their flights directly with airlines, delays and cancellations are often fixed by taking another flight. But for people booking packages with tour operators, the situation can be a bit more tricky.

Rex Nikkels, airport procurement specialist for TUI, says that because hotels, transfers and other parts of the trip are booked together, it makes it hard to reschedule. It means that tour operators like them – and the people that book through them – have been some of the hardest hit by chaos at airports.

“We also had to get rid of people,” he says, explaining that they lost workers during the pandemic just like airports. “We are also short of staff for now, but we can manage.”

Nikkels says it means tour companies have taken a hit to their reputation because people are quick to blame them when all of the moving parts of a package holiday can’t be changed.

“This summer, we will face the same problems,” he adds.

Should you plan to arrive early when you fly?

It’s easy to think that arriving super early for your flight is the solution when queues are ridiculously long.

But according to Nikkels, arriving too early can cause as many problems as arriving too late. People shouldn’t show up more than three hours before their flight as those turning up five hours or more before departure are simply adding to the queues, he says.

Most airlines are advising passengers not to arrive before the earliest time their check-in allows. It’s also worth making sure your passports are still valid – especially if you are travelling from the UK where post-Brexit rules are adding to the confusion and there have been delays on renewals.

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Travel officials offer tips to ease wait times at Westchester Airport this holiday weekend

The Westchester County Airport was packed Friday with travel officials saying that a record number of people are expected to take to the air this Memorial Day weekend.

Travel officials say air travel is expected to be up 25%, bringing levels back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Officials warn travelers that wait times may be much longer.

Airport officials say to help ease the wait times be mindful of what you packed in your carry on. Remember anything that can be sprayed, pumped or spilled must be 3.4 ounces or under.

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Pensioner “stranded on plane” will “never fly via Manchester Airport” | Travel News | Travel

Ray King, 68, has said he will “never fly via Manchester Airport” again after being left to wait onboard a flight. Ray, who has osteoarthritis in both knees and one hip, landed on a Jet2.com flight from Dalaman at 4.45pm earlier this month. His wife, Pauline, had pre-booked assistance to help him from the aircraft and through the hub as he cannot negotiate steps or walk long distances. 

However, upon landing, and after all other passengers had disembarked, Ray claims both they and another couple waited a further two hours for staff from assistance agency ABM – despite repeated attempts from the cabin and crew to speed up the process.

The plane had been due to fly out again to Sicily at 6.15pm but the delay meant the next set of passengers didn’t get going until after 8pm, says Ray. In the meantime, he says he was taken by ambulift to the terminal, where, with the support of his wife, he had to tackle the walk to passport control on foot as no wheelchair was made available, despite having requested one.

Ray told the Manchester Evening News: “Despite needing a wheelchair to negotiate the many areas of the airport I was dumped at a door and told ‘there is the lift’. If it hadn’t been for my wife’s help I would have been helpless.

“Both Jet2.com captains, the one who flew us in and the one who arrived to fly the next passengers out, were amazing and really tried to help. I don’t blame the airline, they tried their utmost.

“When they finally got us they had no wheelchairs after the ride to the terminal so I just had to walk a bit, sit down, then walk again, and suffer with the help of my wife. We will never fly through Manchester Airport again. It was the complete opposite at Dalaman, they couldn’t help enough.

“We live equal distance to Newcastle and Leeds and we go away three times a year. We’ve always travelled from Manchester but we will not do that again. Even in the terminal there were no lights on and we had to shout to get the passport control guy. Our baggage was just plonked on the floor and my wife had to go hunting for it. No explanation, no staff.”

A Manchester Airport spokesman said Mr King had been in contact with their customer feedback team and confirmed it was agency ABM who had dealt with the request for special assistance. It’s understood a ‘technical outage’ on the day in question may have contributed to the incident.

He added: “We are sorry to hear this passenger had a disappointing experience upon arrival.

“Our whole industry is facing resource challenges at present, following the most damaging two years in its history. This includes not only airports and airlines, but also third parties operating on our site, including the special assistance providers who are responsible for supporting passengers such as Mr King with additional requirements.

“We will continue to work with our partners to understand the challenges they’re facing, mitigate these pressures in the interim and deliver the best passenger experience we can.”

An ABM spokesperson said: “We understand the importance of the special assistance service we provide passengers, and delivering that service with efficiency, respect, and care is critical. We regret any time when our service does not meet that standard, and are working with our teams and partners in examining Mr King’s experience.

“We are currently experiencing higher volumes of passengers who require special assistance than our busiest pre-pandemic peak while the entire industry continues to face resource challenges. We know that we are not alone in managing these issues and understand the inconvenience and emotional impact this all may have on individuals travelling, particularly those requiring additional assistance. We are working in collaboration with all our clients and partners to minimise the impact as we navigate this phase of the pandemic recovery.”

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Boise Airport is expecting record-setting travel for Memorial Day weekend

Astronomers insist that the summer solstice on June 21 is the official beginning of summer. Forecasters prefer to say that June 1 is the beginning of what they call “meteorological summer.”

But for many of us, the Memorial Day holiday weekend launches the summer season, particularly when it comes to travel. And that’s just fine when it comes to air carriers and officials at the Boise Airport.

“I have every reason to believe that we will see record travel over Memorial Day,” said Rebecca Hupp, Boise Airport Director, adding that the airport has already seen record travel over the President’s Day long weekend and during Spring Break.

Hupp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about what summertime travelers can expect, big changes coming to the airport, and the airport’s steady growth in services, airline partners, and above all, passengers.

“We had our highest passenger numbers ever in 2019, and we are seeing passenger travel rebound to those levels and perhaps even more.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I’m George Prentice. We are quickly approaching the Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. No surprise, travel experts are expecting a good many of us to travel in the coming days. So, let’s spend some time this morning with Rebecca Hupp, director of the Boise Airport, and she joins us from the airport. Rebecca, good morning.

REBECCA HUPP: Good morning, George. Thank you for the invitation to join you on your show.

PRENTICE: I’d like to talk about passenger travel in a moment, but I’d first like to ask you about an organization assessment that was completed by Stephen Baldwin Associates. And I’m guessing that the results confirmed what you already knew, and that is staffing and the effort to keep pace with passenger growth. What are your needs?

HUPP: Well, it was an interesting process. We completed an initial assessment in 2019, looking forward to future growth. And we all know that in 2020 we saw a pandemic. But during that time, Boise travel decreased because of COVID, but we didn’t decrease as much as some of our peers. And so during that time, we actually transitioned to what F.A.A. refers to as a medium hub, meaning we are one of the largest airports in the country. There is only I think 36 medium hubs and now Boise is one of them. And then of course you have an even fewer number of large hubs, so it’s added some additional regulatory requirements for us. But also as we look to the future in growth, knowing that we’re growing, our operations are tending towards more 24 hour a day operations with some redeye flights, bringing on new facilities, new parking garages, new rental car garages and just more flights and passengers in general. We need to have the people necessary to accommodate them. And so the study did show that there were a couple of areas where maybe we need people who focus on some things that are very specific because of our growth to look at, for example, analytics. And then there are other things where we just need more people to accommodate more passengers and more facilities. So we do expect that we’ll hire over 20 people in the next year and it will be a range of positions and responsibilities. But we think that that will help position the Boise Airport for future success.

PRENTICE: I want to make certain I don’t gloss over something you just said, and that is the possibility of the day where we do have 24 hour service and the possibility of redeye flights.

HUPP: We do have some redeye flights even today and we have over the last several years. And what we’re seeing is as flights arrive later into the night, so I think midnight or one or if a flight is delayed, it could be as late as two. And then we have flights that leave as early as 5 a.m.. So we have people who are arriving at 330. You can see that our airport is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And of course, that doesn’t take into account things like Lifeflight and NIFC and some of those that might have to operate at irregular hours.

PRENTICE: So again, those late arrivals, early departures would come under that red eye classification.

HUPP: Correct?

PRENTICE: The Boise Airport adds another airline this week. Tell us about that.

HUPP: Yes, we are excited that AVELO has announced service and is starting service. Boise to Burbank. It was actually one of our largest unserved destinations and Avelo is one of the newer low-cost carriers. They’ve been primarily focused on the east, but now they are moving west and we’re excited that they’ve chosen Boise as one of their starting points.

PRENTICE: So I want to make sure I have this right. This would be the fifth nonstop destination from Boise to Southern California. Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, a seasonal service to Palm Springs, and now the Hollywood/Burbank Airport.

HUPP: That is correct.

PRENTICE: Let’s talk about summer travel. What are your expectations for the upcoming holiday weekend?

HUPP: We’ve seen passenger travel rebounding very strongly in the Boise market. In fact, both March and April passenger numbers exceeded our pre-pandemic peak, which was in 2019. We had our highest passenger numbers ever in 2019, and we are seeing passenger travel rebound to those levels and perhaps even more. And we are seeing different trends in parking where more people are parking and perhaps parking for longer, leading to congestion in our parking areas as we try to build a new parking garage to accommodate this increased traffic.

PRENTICE: So, we could be seeing possibly close to record numbers this weekend?

HUPP: Travel has been very unpredictable, but I will say we saw record travel over spring break. There was another weekend in February. That was the four-day holiday weekend where schools were out, I believe, on Friday over the Presidents Day holiday weekend. We saw record travel that weekend. So I have every reason to believe that we will see record travel over Memorial Day as well.

PRENTICE: Let’s talk about those parking options that you just mentioned. The extended economy lot I know has been operating. I’m going to assume that that will very much be an option for us this coming weekend.

Boise Airport.jpg

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Boise Airport

HUPP: Yes, we have four shuttles that are operating to and from the terminal to the economy parking lot. And so passengers should not have to wait any more than 15 minutes for a shuttle from the economy lot. However, I will say that parking is nearing capacity, so passengers should not plan to park at the terminal. They should plan to park remotely. If they can, they should think about taking an Uber or a lift. We do have the option where you can park reserve a parking place online through the Park Mobile app. So you might want to snag one of those spaces if you really want to park close. And then we’re hoping over the summer we’ll be able to unveil a new valet service, but we’re not quite there yet.

PRENTICE: I’ve used that app and it’s the best kept… well, it’s not a total secret, but every time I tell someone, they feel as if I’ve given them some inside information. Those reservations are great. What a great option.

HUPP: They really are very convenient and it’s relatively affordable. It’s a little bit more expensive than parking in the regular garage. But if you want to be sure that you have a spot and you don’t want to have to go to the economy a lot, then that is money very well spent.

PRENTICE: Face coverings. What’s the status of what we have to do as far as face coverings?

HUPP: Face coverings are optional. The. The requirement for face coverings has expired. The only caveat I will say is if you are traveling internationally, you should check with your carrier. So we don’t have any commercial international service from Boise, but there are locations where face coverings internationally are required. And you don’t want to get to Seattle, Portland and realize. When you’re going someplace where you’re required to wear a face covering and you don’t have one.

PRENTICE: Well, I will be one of those passengers for this holiday weekend. I always actually look forward to the Boise Airport, especially when I visit other airports. So thank you so much for what you do. And thanks for giving us some time this morning.

HUPP: Thank you, George. I appreciate the invite. I hope you have a wonderful trip this weekend and we’ll hopefully see you again over the summer.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

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Tampa International Airport prepares for record summer travel

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As Memorial Day weekend approaches, Tampa International Airport officials are not only preparing for a busy weekend, but also a busy summer travel season.

TPA is predicting that the summer travel season could reach record levels.

“We anticipate that certainly several days throughout the summer season are going to set records for us and we’re optimistic that as we put the summer in totality, we will set new records,” said Adam Bouchard, Vice President of Operations for Tampa International Airport.

Some were not surprised by these projections.

“Oh my goodness, everyone has been locked up for the last couple years, so everybody can’t wait to get out,” said Patti Tennyson.

With peak days now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, TPA, its airlines, federal agency partners and other airport businesses are getting ready to see steady and heavy volumes of more than 70,000 daily passengers.

Airport and TSA officials said they have added staff, and new equipment to prepare for the increase in passengers.

Jesus Serrano, TSA Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening Operations said TSA Officers will be utilizing new security scanners that use 3D imaging to scan passenger carry-on items.

“It’s called Computed Tomography, these are x-ray scanners that allow the officers to do an in-depth analysis for prohibited items of bags and carry-ons. It allows the officers to rotate the 3-D image and look for those prohibited items, that would otherwise require the bag to be opened,” Serrano said.

TSA officials are asking for travelers to help keep security lines running smoothly by knowing what carry-on items are prohibited. Items such as sharp objects, large containers of liquids and certain food items can actually cause delays at security checkpoints.

“When the travelers understand and know what’s required it’s a seamless process,” said Serrano.

TPA officials urge passengers to arrive early for flights, especially on peak days. They are also asking passengers to utilize technology to check-in for their flight, arrange parking, and follow flight activity.

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Mexico travel demand fueling major airport expansion in San Antonio

Mexico travel demand fueling major airport expansion in San Antonio

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TSA shortage ahead of holiday travel at Austin airport

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s almost Memorial Day weekend and travelers are already preparing, arriving at the airport hours early as suggested by officials at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. 

Paul Martin, an Austinite, arrived six hours before his flight. ABIA does not allow a traveler to check in luggage until four hours before their departure time. 

“Four hours before your flight,” Martin said. “I have about six hours.”

He won’t have to wait long once he gets to the TSA lines, but that wasn’t the case on Tuesday when people missed their flights and lines were out the door. 

ABIA is recommending passengers get to the airport three hours before their departure time, following a power outage at ticket counters earlier this week and a shortage of TSA staff. 

“I had heard that it had been pretty bad. So far, I’m pleased at the moment,” Martin said. 

Representative Lloyd Doggett sent a letter to TSA officials calling the situation “unacceptable” and asking for more staff ahead of an expected record breaking number of travelers for Memorial Day weekend coming through ABIA. 

Rep. Doggett outlined in his letter, travel is expected to increase by 50% and 36,000 passengers are expected to fly through ABIA over the course of the weekend. 

Mike Coughlin, another traveler through ABIA, says he didn’t encounter any issues getting through security just one week before holiday travel was set to begin. 

“It seemed like a normal trip to the airport on a Friday morning,” Coughlin said. “I don’t know what a normal Austin Friday morning is like. As far as any major city I’m used to, it was normal getting here.” 

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Austin airport travel tips for spring, summer 2022

Congressman Lloyd Doggett says the TSA at Austin’s airport is “thoroughly unprepared” for an expected surge in summer travelers.

AUSTIN, Texas — Officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) are urging fliers to arrive 2.5 hours before boarding domestic flights, ahead of what could be the busiest summer ever for air travel in the Capital City.

Previously, airport officials only asked domestic travelers to arrive two hours before boarding. 

Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend travel period, the airport is anticipating a daily record could be broken. The current record is 35,298, set on Oct. 25, 2021.

AUS continues to see high-volume travel days, which are days with 26,000 to 30,000 passengers. In seeing the continued growth of passenger numbers, AUS expects to see a record-breaking 20 million passengers in 2022. 

The large crowds are contributing to long lines that sometimes spill outside of the terminal and onto the curb. 

In response to the long lines that are resulting in some missing their flights at Austin’s airport, Congressman Lloyd Doggett on Wednesday again urged the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administrator to increase staffing and have contingency plans for when screening officers call out, before the expected summer travel surge. But according to airport officials, data trends show the summer travel uptick may already be hitting.

“The situation in the Austin airport – both with new, incredibly long arrival recommendations, and with the continual delays of passenger screening until lines run out of the airport – is untenable and unacceptable,” Doggett said. “I plan to continue my ongoing work in urging the TSA to resolve it and staff our growing airport for our growing city appropriately.”

The letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske was a second renewed request from Doggett to bring help to the airport TSA lines. He noted that he’s worried about people dealing with heat stroke while waiting on the airport curb in overflowing lines.

“There are specific things that can be done now to alleviate the surge that we will see throughout the summer months so that we don’t have people suffering from heat stroke because they’ve been standing outside the airport so long just trying to get into their flight,” Doggett said in an interview with KVUE. “I know how frustrating and upsetting it can be when people miss a flight simply because there were not enough people there to get them through security. And I want to put a stop to that and see that everybody can move through that airport as expeditiously as possible.”

The TSA released the following statement as a response:

“Staffing is a challenge, much like it is across the country. It is harder to staff than 2019. We are below where we want to be, but we are deploying National Deployment Officers to AUS airport who will be assigned for the duration of the summer, we will deploy additional canine teams who will also be deployed for the duration of summer travel season, we have implemented retention incentives, moving some part-time officers to full-time, chipping away at overtime, and the president’s budget includes improved compensation for our workforce – which, if passed, will have a great impact on the workforce. While we are preparing for 2019 volumes, volumes are projected to be below that (due to international).

“We are continuing our efforts to recruit and retain a workforce that is able to meet increasing demands of passenger travel volume and maintain security effectiveness. We monitor wait times at every airport and work with our airport and airline partners to anticipate higher traffic patterns.

“Throughout the summer, TSA is deploying its advance checkpoint technology. This technology provides more advanced threat detection capability and is better in terms of security effectiveness, but while being installed, it could cause passengers to wait a bit longer in queue to be screened. Please account for this in your departure time, and again, give yourself plenty of time.

“We design our system to meet performance requirements with throughput. We have standards for wait times – 30 minutes for standard, 10 minutes for PreCheck, and in general, we meet that. Our priority is to make sure screening is conducted in a way that is best for safety and security. We are staffed up and ready to go and we’ve done everything we can there, and we will also adjust to spikes in volume through the use of our National Deployment Force as needed. As far as the NDO, we do not send them reactively – we look at the data ahead of time to see if/when we need to deploy.”

On Tuesday, May 17, TSA said its officers screened more than 2 million people. That marks the first time in 2022 that the TSA screened more than two million people on a Tuesday, according to the TSA.

The last time a Tuesday saw that many people hit the skies was Thanksgiving 2021.

Officials shared travel tips to help passengers work their way through the airport.

Passenger travel

The airport recommended that travelers using general TSA screening should arrive at least 2.5 hours before their boarding time for domestic flights. Travelers flying internationally should check in at their airline ticket counter at least three hours before boarding.  

Travelers checking luggage, traveling with small children or in a large group, and those flying out of the airport for the first time should give themselves extra time in addition to the 2.5 and 3-hour recommendations to make it to their gate on time.

Parking and passenger drop-off

The airport encourages drivers and passengers to “switch,” using whichever level has the least congestion for drop-off for departures. The airport said passengers can quickly get upstairs to ticketing and security using escalators and elevators from the lower arrivals level. If the lower level is congested, arriving passengers can use escalators and elevators to be picked up on the upper level.

Travelers looking to park onsite can visit the airport parking website to reserve a parking space and check for real-time parking availability before arriving at the airport.

For arriving passengers getting picked up by rideshares, a tram service is available on the first floor of the Red garage to take passengers from the terminal to the rideshare pick-up area on the ground floor underneath the rental car facility.

Flight check-in

Travelers without checked luggage can skip the airline ticket counters and head to security screening checkpoints using these options: 

  • Using the lower curbside and upper curbside for drop-off. From the lower level, passengers can quickly get upstairs to ticketing and security via escalators and elevators.
  • Self-service flight check-in kiosks that allow travelers to print their boarding passes and bag tags are available inside the terminal, across from the airline ticket counters.
  • In addition to traditional check-in procedures, select airlines offer outside curbside check-in
  • Checking in for flights using airlines’ mobile app and a mobile boarding pass

TSA screening and packing

Staffing at security screening checkpoints is the responsibility of the TSA, the airport said. Checkpoints open at 3:30 a.m. with TSA PreCheck and Clear screening available at Checkpoints 1 and 2 West. 

A new security checkpoint near Southwest ticketing, Checkpoint 2 East, will be open during peak travel periods for all passengers going through general screening. All checkpoints lead to all gates and airlines in the Barbara Jordan Terminal.

See what can and cannot be brought through TSA security here.

Health and safety

The TSA no longer requires people to wear masks at airports, including AUS, as of April 18, 2022.

Allegiant and Frontier travelers

Travelers flying with Allegiant and Frontier will depart from the South Terminal. All other airlines operate out of the main Barbara Jordan Terminal. 

The two terminals are not connected and must be accessed separately. The South Terminal is located at 10000 Logistics Lane, near US 183 and Burleson Road. If dropped off at the Barbara Jordan Terminal, passengers can use a shuttle bus, which picks up from the curb-side departure level, to get to the South Terminal.

To see AUS frequently asked questions, visit the airport website here.

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