Blame airports for summer travel chaos: Airline CEO

  • Airports are to blame for flight cancellations and delays this summer, an airline chief executive said.
  • Icelandair’s CEO told Insider that some airports were not ready to receive passengers.
  • Bogi Nils Bogason said he strongly believes the industry will return to normal next summer.

For many airline passengers, the summer of 2022 was a frustrating experience. Huge lines, long waits for lost luggage, and last-minute flight cancellations were common occurrences.

The CEO of transatlantic airline Icelandair told Insider that he believed the blame for the outage lay with the airports.

“Some airports were not ready to receive passengers,” said Bogi Nils Bogason. Even though flight schedules were prepared and announced since the spring, airports failed to warn airlines that they were not prepared to receive large numbers of passengers, he added.

Some of the world’s busiest airports struggled to cope at times as demand for flights increased during the summer. Workers who were laid off were slow to return in sufficient numbers, leaving many airports understaffed, leading to baggage handling difficulties and long delays.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Heathrow, both main hubs for Icelandair, have had to issue limits on the number of passengers, leading to flight cancellations.

“We didn’t have any staffing issues at Icelandair,” Bogason said, adding that the airline hired its baggage handlers in-house. However, problems at airports such as Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Dublin “caused disruptions to our operation,” he said.

Amid the disruption, the airline decided to send some of its own baggage handlers from Iceland to help unload and process bags, Bogason said.

“If we have some delays in Amsterdam, it will cause delays because flights from Amsterdam are connecting with departures to North America,” Bogason said.

Amsterdam Schiphol did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for further comment.

Like other airlines, Icelandair saw an uptick in travel demand this summer. According to the airline’s third-quarter results, it carried 1.4 million passengers between June and September, 82% of the airline’s pre-pandemic capacity.

However, its on-time performance — the percentage of flights that arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled time — was 70% over the same time period, according to third-quarter results. The company blamed the shortfall on staffing problems at major international airports.

Despite the challenges this summer, Bogason said he “strongly believes” the industry should return to normal pre-COVID-19 levels by next summer.

According to its website, Icelandair flies to 15 North American cities from Europe. Its hub airport is Keflavik International Airport.

The airline is the national carrier of Iceland and is notable for its Stopover ticket, which allows travelers to add an extended stopover in the country at no additional cost.

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