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Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called

Passengers with Europe's low-cost airlines are facing more strikes this summer as staff announced new walkouts on Tuesday.

Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called
Staff at budget airlines in Europe such as Ryanair and easyJet have called for more summer strikes. Photo: Adrian DENNIS / AFP

Trade unions representing Ryanair cabin crew in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain have called for strikes this coming weekend, while easyJet’s operations in Spain face a nine-day strike next month.

Damien Mourgues, a representative of the SNPNC trade union at Ryanair in France, said the airline doesn’t respect rest time laws and is calling for a raise for cabin crew still paid at the minimum wage.

Cabin crew will go on strike on Saturday and Sunday.

READ MORE: What’s the latest on the Ryanair strike in Spain?

A strike on the weekend of June 12th and 13th already prompted the cancellation of about 40 Ryanair flights in France, or about a quarter of the total.

Ryanair’s low-cost rival easyJet also faces nine days of strikes on different days in July at the Barcelona, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca airports. 

The provisional strike dates for easyJet are the weekends of July 1st-3rd, July 15th-17th, and July 29th-31st, as announced by the Spanish union USO. Approximately 450 staff members are involved.

READ MORE: EasyJet adds to Spain’s summer travel woes with 9-day strike

The union said Tuesday that Spanish easyJet cabin crew, with a base pay of 950 euros per month, have the lowest wages of the airline’s European bases.

The strikes come as air travel has rebounded since Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

But many airlines, which laid off staff during the pandemic, are having trouble rehiring enough workers and have been forced to cancel flights, including easyJet, which has been particularly hard hit by employee shortages.

On Monday, the European Transport Workers’ Federation called “on passengers not to blame the workers for the disasters in the airports, the cancelled flights, the long queues and longer time for check-ins, and lost luggage or delays caused by decades of corporate greed and a removal of decent jobs in the sector.”

READ ALSO: Strikes and queues: How airline passengers in Europe face summer travel chaos

The Federation said it expects “the chaos the aviation sector is currently facing will only grow over the summer as workers are pushed to the brink.”

Aviation sector ‘chaos’

In Spain, trade unions have urged Ryanair cabin crews to strike from June 24th to July 2nd to secure their “fundamental labour rights” and “decent workconditions for all staff”.

Ryanair staff in Portugal plan to go on strike from Friday to Sunday to protest work conditions, as are employees in Belgium.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been dismissive of the strikes.

“We operate two and half thousand flights every day,” he said earlier this month in Belgium.

“Most of those flights will continue to operate even if there is a strike in Spain by some Mickey Mouse union or if the Belgian cabin crew unions want to go on strike over here,” he added in a media conference.

In Italy, a 24-hour strike is set to hit Ryanair operations on Saturday with pilots and cabin crew calling for the airline to respect the minimum wages set for the sector under a national agreement. 

Aircraft technician strike grounds flights from Norway 

More than 50 departures out of Norway’s airports have been cancelled so far due to an aircraft technician strike.

Widerøe has cancelled 38 flights so far, while Norwegian Air Shuttle cancelled five departures on Tuesday morning and announced a further 17 trips wouldn’t go ahead on Wednesday.

The Norwegian Air Traffic Technician Organisation (NFO) currently has 106 workers out on strike. The organisation could take out 39 more staff on Friday if an agreement on pay isn’t reached.

Travellers are advised to contact the airline they are meant to be flying with directly if their flight is delayed or cancelled. You can check scheduled departures out of Norwegian airports here

Widerøe has urged travellers not to contact them unless their flight has been cancelled, disrupted, or they are unhappy with the alternative travel arrangements that have been offered to them.

“If you have not heard anything from us, then you can be sure that your trip is still planned and carried out and behave in the usual way when you go out and travel,” a press officer for the airline told public broadcaster NRK.

Norwegian said it was working to rebook customers whose flights had been cancelled. 

“Almost everyone has been offered to rebook to an alternative route, and then there is one flight where we are still working to solve it,” Esben Tuman, communications director for the airline, told newswire NTB.

READ MORE: Flights in Norway cancelled due to technician strike

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TRAVEL NEWS

Italy’s summer tourism boom driven by American arrivals

Tourist spending in Italy is set to return to pre-pandemic levels this summer, boosted largely by visitors from the US, says a new industry report.

Italy's summer tourism boom driven by American arrivals

Italy’s tourism earnings are predicted to total €17 billion this summer, restoring the industry to a state of health not seen since the start of the pandemic, according to a study released by the retailers’ association Comfcommercio on Monday.

Americans are the lead drivers of the recovery, the report shows, with 2.2 million US visitors expected to bring in €2.1 billion between July and September – 20 percent more than over the same period in 2019.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Canadians, Australians and South Africans are also anticipated to make up a significant proportion of this year’s visitors.

The high value of the dollar against the euro is thought to be partly responsible for this year’s boom in US arrivals.

The euro slipped to parity with the dollar for the first time in nearly 20 years this month, as a cut in Russian gas supplies to Europe heightened fears of a recession in the eurozone.

It has since recovered a little, to around $1.02 per euro, but remains a huge bargain for visitors, giving tourists from dollar countries a spending power boost of well over 10 percent from six months ago.

The number of Spanish arrivals is also expected to return pre-pandemic levels this summer, with an estimated one million visitors due to arrive between July and September.

Domestic tourism is also up, with 35 million Italians travelling on holiday in their own country despite an ongoing cost of living crisis caused by soaring inflation and exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, according to a separate study by the agricultural association Coldiretti.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

By contrast, the number of tourists coming to Italy from Asian countries is down; while EU sanctions introduced in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have seen Russian tourism drop to near zero.

Germany, a key source of tourism particularly in the Italian south, was down 27 percent in July compared to 2019 – a drop thought to be caused by air travel disruption.

In a typical year, the majority of Italy’s tourists (14.1 percent) come from Germany, figures from Italy’s National Statistics Agency Istat show. Around three percent come from the US, and another three percent from the UK.

“The return of foreign tourism after three years helps to consolidate our economic recovery. The outlook, however, is uncertain due to the decrease in consumption, the unrest in air transport and the unknown pandemic,” said Confcommercio president Carlo Sangalli in a televised statement.

“Support for the tourism sector must therefore be among the priorities of the next executive in terms of combating expensive energy and reducing the tax burden,” he added.

Italy will vote for a new government in late September after its ‘unity’ coalition government collapsed in July, triggering snap elections.

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