Will Austria see travel chaos in airports this summer?
Austria is a major tourist destination, and residents are also keen to resume travel abroad after pandemic years. But is there trouble ahead for airline passengers?
European airports have seen chaotic scenes in its airports recently, with long lines, gates packed, and people even missing their flights due to delays in check-ins and luggage checking.
So far, Austria has got through a wave of chaos sweeping Europe relatively unscathed. However, there have been a few reports of delays and cancellations. An anonymous employee at the Vienna International Airport told Austrian media that delays are already happening.
"The passengers already have to wait an hour at check-in, then another hour at the security. I have already been insulted by aggressive passengers", the employee said.
Representatives from the Vienna Airport operator have denied the reports, but numbers show that the recipe for trouble is already in place in the alpine country, with increasing numbers of travellers while airliners and airports face staff shortages.
Rising number of flyers
As coronavirus numbers go down in Europe, travel numbers go up. Especially as most countries have all but removed their Covid-19 restrictions. In Austria, for example, there is no need to show any proof that you were vaccinated, recovered or tested negative for the disease to enter the country.
Once inside, there are also almost no restrictions, except for health establishments. However, in the capital Vienna, FFP2 masks are still mandatory in all public transport.
Still, life seems pretty pre-pandemic in the streets of Austria, and that shows in the numbers as the amount of travellers steadily increases over the last few weeks. The Vienna Airport has published its results for the first quarter of 2022, saying it expects "strong travel for summer" as it saw a significant passenger increase in the first three months of the year.
In April, 2.3 million passengers were travelling through the airport, a number almost eight times higher than the year before.
Austrian Airlines, the Lufthansa group airliner, has a similar assessment: "Easing of Corona restrictions across Europe mean a return of full planes and wanderlust: millions of new bookings for spring and summer".
The issue may come if, as it happened in other countries, there are simply not enough staff to cope with such an increase in demand.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many airliners and airport operators had to lay off staff to cut costs. Workers were also forced to go on Kurzarbeit, the short-term program to keep jobs, which reduced hours and pay. As a result, many decided to change careers entirely, moving to sectors less affected by the pandemic.
However, the short term scheme has also helped save jobs in Austria. The spokesperson for the Vienna International Airport has told Austrian media that they currently have about 80 percent of personnel from before the pandemic - while passenger levels are at about 65 to 70 percent of those from 2019.
Vienna Schwechat Airport says there were no staff cuts during the pandemic, though some workers quit and others retired.
Additionally, Austrian Airlines said it has hired 150 new cabin staff for the spring and summer seasons and that it is "ready for take-off into a summer in full operation".
What to do if you are affected?
Still, delays and cancellations can happen, particularly in the high season, even with all the preparation. If you have faced issues with your flight, you have rights and might be entitled to compensation, according to EU legislation.
Here is all you need to know about your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled.