Iata chief condemns ‘irresponsible’ travel strikes

Iata chief Willie Walsh has added his weight to complaints about flights being cancelled due to “irresponsible” strike action in Europe.

He also warned that some passengers “may be disappointed” due to staff shortages and supply chain issues this summer.

His comments came as Ryanair reported that more than 700,000 people in six weeks had signed a petition urging action by the European Union to enable flights over France to continue operating during strikes by the country’s air traffic controllers.

May 1 saw the 52nd day of ATC action in France so far this year, forcing the cancellation of flights at short notice for more than 730,000 passengers over four months, according to the airline.

Iata director general Walsh, a former chief executive of British Airways, said: “As traveller expectations build towards the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season, airlines are doing their best to meet the desire and need to fly. 

“Unfortunately, a lack of capacity means that some of those travellers may be disappointed. 

“Part of this capacity shortfall is attributable to the widely reported labour shortages impacting many parts of the aviation value chain, as well as supply chain issues affecting the aircraft manufacturing sector that is resulting in aircraft delivery delays. 

“However, a significant share of recent flight cancellations, primarily in Europe, are owing to job actions by air traffic controllers and others. 

“These irresponsible actions resulted in thousands of unnecessary cancellations in March. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the authorities.”

He was speaking as the airline trade body reported that overall March passenger traffic returned to 88% of equivalent pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Walsh said: “The calendar year first quarter ended on a strong note for air travel demand. 

“Domestic markets have been near their pre-pandemic levels for months. 

“And for international travel two key waypoints were topped. First, demand increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous month’s growth, to reach 81.6% of pre-Covid levels. 

“This was led by a near-tripling of demand for Asia-Pacific carriers as China’s re-opening took hold. And efficiency is improving as international load factors reached 81.3%. 

“Even more importantly, ticket sales for both domestic and international travel give every indication that strong growth will continue into the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season.”

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