Simon Calder comments on planned Ryanair strike action
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Eddie Wilson, the Chief Executive of the Irish budget airline, said that while more staff needed to be recruited across the aviation sector, the biggest issue was air traffic control. Mr Wilson said that air traffic control delays across Europe were the “worst ever” despite there being 15 percent fewer flights compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “The underlying problem across Europe — even if you have the aircraft, you’re not cancelling [flights] and you’ve got the crew — is air-traffic control.
“It is the single biggest delay for all airlines by a country mile.”
Mr Wilson argued that air traffic control were facing issues with staffing and upgrading of systems which meant the “invisible roundabouts of the sky” could not cope with the current level of traffic despite it being at pre pandemic levels.
He said: “The French upgraded their systems in the summertime, which wasn’t a great idea.
“And there is a German facility in Karlsruhe that isn’t properly staffed and that is a major roundabout.
“When you’ve got air-traffic control delays, they eat into crew hours. Pilots and cabin crew can, by regulation, only fly a certain amount of hours.
“If they are delayed at the start, by the time they get to the second rotation there is a knock-on.
“If they’re carrying delays all day, it means they are late going into the next day. In most companies that’s just a minor inconvenience.
“But in airlines, for those people what they’ve done today now affects what they can do tomorrow.”
The Ryanair boss added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had closed airspace around the two countries which had “squeezed an awful lot more traffic south” exacerbating the delays.
Aviation continues to be in crisis as the sector is struggling to recruit new staff after airlines sacked thousands during the pandemic and the staff that are recruited often face lengthy security checks before they can start work.
As a result, the sector has struggled to cope with rapidly increasing passenger demand as the majority of countries abandon covid rules in relation to quarantines and vaccines.
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British Airways has been forced to cancel 27,900 flights this summer and earlier this week suspended the sale of all short haul flights from Heathrow until August 15.
West London has also introduced a passenger cap of 100,000 a day while Gatwick has introduced a similar cap, one of the key reasons why EasyJet has been forced to cancel 15,000 departures.
The boss of Manchester airport was forced to resign after weeks of passenger misery.
Data by Eurocontrol, which manages European airspace, has shown that delays have soared since the start of the summer season often caused by staffing and capacity shortages.
In the week up to July 31 European airspace handled an average of 30,718 flights a day with a combined delay of 116,624 minutes every day.
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