Air France-KLM boss warns travelers to get to Amsterdam airport early

The company is forecasting 85% to 90% of pre-pandemic flights this summer around the world.

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The head of aviation alliance Air France-KLM said on Thursday it would take weeks or months to hire new security staff to ease pressure on Amsterdam Airport, which has been facing flight cancellations, delays and major travel problems as global air travel recovers. from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith told reporters that the company is seeking compensation for some of its losses, blaming problems at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on a lack of security and other ground personnel outside of KLM’s control.

While the Dutch government is faced with the need to find solutions, after recruiting security personnel, “it could take weeks or months for them to take up their positions” due to the government’s security clearance requirements, Smith said.

Airlines and airports that have cut jobs during the pandemic are struggling to cope with rising travel demand, and passengers are facing chaos at European and US airports.

Smith downplayed concerns about an Air France pilots’ strike scheduled for Saturday, saying only a small minority of pilots are expected to attend and he does not expect it to affect operations.

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Paris’s main Charles de Gaulle airport doesn’t have as many disruptions to travel as Amsterdam, London and some other hubs. Smith attributed this to Air France’s decision last year to hire hundreds of pilots, mechanics and flight attendants in anticipation of a surge in demand this summer.

Airlines are still understaffed, with 7,500 people leaving Air France due to a plane crash due to the pandemic, while KLM has lost 3,000 people. While many airlines have laid off employees, Air France-KLM says they were only voluntarily laid off.

But Smith said all airline aircraft are operational and the company is forecasting 85% to 90% of pre-pandemic flights this summer around the world.

“We’re seeing strong pent-up demand for tourist travel, people who can’t fly for two years,” he said.

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Despite worries about rising COVID-19 cases and recession risks, he predicted strong demand in the fall.

Soaring global fuel prices are undercutting plane ticket prices, but Smith said that is not stopping people from flying.

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“The ability to pass on higher costs to customers is incredible,” he said, especially in first and business class. “Trying to get a seat outside of New York is impossible.”

However, he warned that due to high fuel prices and wider inflation, “we will not see a year of profit bonanza. Pre-pandemic operations are still a long way off.

The governments of France and the Netherlands saved Air France and KLM from near-collapse when the pandemic hit with billions of euros in loans. Smith said the company hopes to pay off the Dutch aid in the coming months and 75% of the French aid by the end of this year.

He welcomed the return to freedom of movement, but warned travelers: “Allow extra time to get in and out of airports – and book early. Flights are filling up.

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