The national airline, Tunisair, announced on Sunday, July 3, the postponement of several flights, a consequence of the disruptions noted on July 1 and 2, according to its press release. The news had the effect of a bomb, and very quickly the social networks were invaded by photos of endless queues and testimonies from passengers, stranded in Tunisia or abroad, expressing their anger and their distress.
The Ministry of Transport had to set up a crisis unit to monitor airport activity and developments in the flight disruption situation. Transport Minister Rabii Majidi stressed the importance of giving the necessary importance to support and communication with travelers and called on all parties to step up efforts until the crisis is resolved. He assured in a media appearance on Monday that of the 279 scheduled flights from 1eh pr. July 4, 2022, 26 flights have not been completed (about 6,000 passengers) and that they will be by Thursday.
The minister explained that the crashes on four planes were unpredictable, that the problem was purely technical, accentuated by a worldwide shortage of spare parts, and added that the disruptions recorded at certain European airports also affected Tunisair traffic and that the national airline is working to lease other aircraft to strengthen its fleet and that 50 airlines have been contacted in this context.
Rabii Majidi pointed out that Tunisair has mobilized its agents to accompany travelers and that it has provided accommodation in hotels for travelers stranded abroad. The Espérance Sportif de Tunis swimming team, all levels, have also been accommodated in a 5-star hotel in Casablanca while waiting for the flight to Tunis to be rerouted. Given the scale of the situation, several travelers have logically had accommodation problems.
Tunisair’s CEO Khaled Chelly, for his part, assured that spare parts suppliers are obliged to supply equipment to Tunisair and that solutions will be established to ensure that travelers return to Tunis. He also made his deepest apologies on behalf of the company for the inconvenience, recalling that the context is global and that Tunisair is no exception …
Strikes, lack of spare parts or understaffed, the recovery after the pandemic already promised to be chaotic
The case with Tunisair is far from isolated. If the national airline pays the price for unforeseen technical breakdowns, other airlines have also experienced major disruptions in recent days.
Especially in Europe and after the lifting of health restrictions attached to Covid-19, airports were stormed by holidaymakers who were finally released. Faced with this influx, which the aviation sector had predicted, however, but which it was ultimately unable to handle well, many disruptions and cancellations were observed, often due to staff shortages.
The European Air Traffic Control Agency, Eurocontrol, has this summer planned a number of flights corresponding to 95% of the level in the same period in 2019. The problem is that the sector lamented a cruel shortage of weapons, caused by the massive departures below the low point caused by Covid-19- the pandemic and the need to reduce the wage bill.
Due to trade union movements, 150 flights were canceled between June 30 and July 2 at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, and other disruptions are to be feared next weekend, French media warn. Air France CEO Anne Rigail was forced to apologize after the flight disruptions caused by the strike in Roissy and promise solutions to redirect the 17,000 pieces of luggage to return them to their owners. Anne Rigail told local media that Air France’s operations ” is very hard broken down ” due ” external malfunctions, whether it be social movements at airports or infrastructure failures “.
The situation is no better on the part of the British low-cost airline Easyjet, which has had to cancel hundreds of flights due to lack of sufficient staff and decided to reduce its transport capacity this summer. Airports in the UK and Europe are severely short of ground staff and struggling to recruit in a sector that is becoming less and less attractive. This means that chaos reigns while tourism resumes with a bang.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the situation is not much better, notes the airline Air Canada, the local media, which ranked first for delays on July 2nd and 3rd. 717 flights took off late, a rate of 67%. On Sunday, two-thirds of its flights were disrupted.
North America is no exception. On July 2, 600 flights were canceled and a further 3,100 were delayed. Local airlines deplore the lack of staff, especially the airline’s pilots, and are struggling to cope with a massive recovery.
A global problem
After being hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 crisis, the aviation market had to face an unprecedented crisis in March 2020. Almost shut down, painful decisions had to be made so that the commercial aviation sector could stay afloat and keep a minimum of labor force. The staff was therefore largely laid off to allow the sector to avoid the financial crash.
Now that the restrictions have been lifted, airlines and airports have found themselves coping with gigantic passenger flows with reduced staff despite the intensive recruitments that have been carried out to prepare for the season.
Chaos therefore reigns in Tunisian, European and American airports, and it has been going on for weeks. Companies, authorities and stakeholders in the sector promise solutions so that the season does not turn into a nightmare. In the meantime, it will undoubtedly be necessary for holidaymakers to arm themselves with patience in the face of an announced but a priori ill-anticipated crisis.
Myriam Ben Zineb