Could be a complicated summer for travel. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter

The Spanish Association of Airlines (ALA) predicts a record summer in Spain, although it warns that some problems such as the constant air traffic control strikes in France or the lack of staff at numerous European airports could negatively affect peak season.

Airlines have 219 million seats scheduled for this summer season in Spain, 3% above those finally flown in the same period of 2019, before the pandemic, according to the latest update which slightly reduces the figures initially announced by Aena of 221.8 million (up 4.4%).

The president of ALA, Javier Gándara, explained at a press conference that the schedules are finally adjusted as the season progresses, which is normal and happens for various reasons, one of them being the cancellations due to the strikes in France.

In the first four months of the year there have been 94 days of stoppages in French air traffic control, with Spain being the second country, after France, most affected by delays and cancellations.

On the other hand, the lack of staff at many European airports is “an issue that worries us, but we hope that it will not be as catastrophic as last summer, although there are signs that point in this direction, since, for example, in Amsterdam there is talk of a reduction in flights because it does not have the capacity to take on all the expected passengers,“ he said.

In the case of the United Kingdom, “we are quite concerned because the issue is more structural than cyclical, due to the fact that Brexit is causing many sectors to see a lack of capacity to recruit all the people that are needed”, he added.

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“We hope we are wrong. The worst thing that could happen is that we are already in conditions and people start travelling again and the airports are not prepared for it,” he warned.

Gándara recalled that Spain has been an exception and a model in the sense that last summer both airports and air navigation and airlines were prepared to take on the expected traffic, “which does not mean that, in the end, indirectly, the problem ends up having repercussions for Spain”.

Despite this, it is reasonable to think that, with the performance of air traffic in the first three months of this year, with growth of 2.1% in January compared to 2019, 2.2% in February and 0.6% in March, in 2023 as a whole, pre-pandemic levels will be reached in Spain.

However, not all regions have performed equally in terms of scheduling, with the Canary and Balearic Islands and Andalusia showing even higher figures, with 7.8%, 7.4% and 8.2% more seats respectively, compared to Madrid and Barcelona, which are still 3.1% and 7.9% below the pre-pandemic level.

This is because they are more dependent on other traffic, mainly business traffic, whose recovery is progressing more slowly, especially corporate travel, after many companies have opted for a hybrid work model between face-to-face and virtual.

The president of ALA took stock of the recently completed winter season, with a 99.7% recovery in passenger numbers between November 2022 and March 2023 compared to the same period before covid.

Intercontinental and domestic traffic in March were 5 % and 6 % respectively above the figures of four years ago, while intra-European traffic is still 2 % below, mainly due to the fact that Germany and the UK, two countries with a large share of tourism, are still lagging behind.