‘Travel light’: Italy warns passengers amid European flight chaos

Italian passengers were told not to fly with too many suitcases this summer as travel plans are threatened by major disruption at airports around Europe.

Passenger queue - El Prat Airport (Spain)
Passengers from all over Europe are facing delays and cancellations as staff shortages keep affecting air traffic. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

As flight cancellations and delays continued to hit many of Europe’s major airport terminals this week, the Italian government has warned passengers to “travel light”.

“Travellers are advised to only carry hand luggage […] so as to avoid long waiting times for the recovery of their belongings,” read a press release from the Italian Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility (MIMS). 

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights due to staff shortages

European airports have been affected by critical levels of disruption for months, and the chaos is set to continue throughout the summer.

The latest data from the global flight airline analysis firm Citrium shows that airlines have cancelled 25,378 flights from their August schedules, of which 15,788 are in Europe.

Airlines across Europe have been struggling with staff shortages, with passengers reporting chaotic scenes and long queues at airports.

Between June 1st and June 21st, as many as 8,228 flights were cancelled across Europe.

The current air traffic disruption is due to a “dramatic lack of personnel” resulting from layoffs during the Covid pandemic, according to Italy’s infrastructure and mobility minister Enrico Giovannini.

Besides widespread staff shortages, repeated strikes called by staff at low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air have recently further aggravated the problems, leaving thousands of European passengers stranded.

Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport: passengers queueing.

Travellers queue at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where passengers are currently being advised to get to the check-in counter no more than four hours before departure. Photo by Jeroen JUMELET / ANP / AFP

So far, Italian airports haven’t seen the levels of disruption reported in many neighbouring countries, though the knock-on effect of widespread problems around Europe means delays are not uncommon in Italy either.

READ ALSO: Planes and trains: Italy’s calendar for 2022 summer strikes

Strike action meant a number of passengers experienced a moderate degree of disruption on June 25th, but very few flights have been cancelled thus far. 

A four-hour national strike has been called in Italy for Sunday, July 17th but, at the time of writing, it isn’t yet clear how much disruption the scheduled protests will cause to travel into and out of the country.

So far, Spain has indisputably been the hardest-hit country as two three-day strikes held in late June grounded more than 200 flights and caused over a thousand delays. More strikes are now scheduled for the second half of July.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Record queues were reported at a number of major German airport terminals and at Amsterdam Schiphol, where passengers are currently being advised to get to the airport no more than four hours before departure to avoid overcrowding.

In a preemptive bid to avoid major disruption, Italy’s Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) said it had liaised with all national airports to ensure passengers are provided with “appropriate and immediate assistance” in case of delays and/or cancellations in the country.

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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.