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How Air France and Roissy airport are coping with summer traffic jams

How Air France and Roissy airport are coping with summer traffic jams

Summer will be hot at European airports. For the first time in three years, air traffic should approach and sometimes even exceed pre-crisis levels . In particular at Roissy-CDG, which expects 90% of summer 2019 traffic on peak days. The spring holidays gave a taste of this recovery, with traffic returning to 86% in May at European airports, according to Eurocontrol. That is an average of 27,491 flights per day.

This very good news for the sector was accompanied by nightmarish days in several major airports, overwhelmed by the influx of passengers. The situation at Amsterdam-Schiphol, where KLM had to cancel more than 200 flights in May, is an extreme but not unique case. In London, Manchester, Dublin, Frankfurt or Stockholm, endless queues have generated massive delays and numerous cancellations. Last Monday, an Airbus A319 from Easyjet even had to take off from London-Gatwick without a passenger!

Lack of qualified personnel

The main cause is the same everywhere: the lack of qualified personnel in airports and planes, at the end of a crisis which has resulted in tens of thousands departures . “A large number of staff, laid off or left under a voluntary departure plan, have changed jobs and will not return, explains an airline union official. Add to that the drop in training for air trades, still significant absenteeism linked to the Covid and the state of fatigue of the staff in post, and you have enough to predict a catastrophic summer at Roissy and Orly. »

However, at Air France as at ADP, the tone remains voluntary and even optimistic for this summer, perceived as that of reconquest. Throughout the crisis, Air France managed to maintain a larger capacity than its main competitors. This will again be the case this summer, with an offer almost equivalent to that of 2019.

Up to 215,000 passengers per day at Roissy-CDG

“We expect up to 120,000 passengers on the busiest days of July and August, and 100,000 per day at peak in June, underlines Guy Zacklad, the director of the Air France hub at CDG. We don’t have any big concerns, even if it’s not all up to us,” he says.

On his side, Paris Airports , which expects a return to 90% of 2019 traffic, has reopened all terminals used by Air France and its Skyteam partners. Only terminal 1, where Air France is not present, will remain closed this summer, offset by the reopening of 2B. So far, the Paris airport has managed to get through the first traffic peaks of the summer season without experiencing the same congestion problems as Schiphol, despite a peak of more than 200,000 passengers last Sunday.

Air France and ADP anticipated the recovery

As of last January, ADP and Air France had begun to work on the hypothesis, very optimistic at the time, of a return to flight of the entire fleet in the summer. “In January, we launched the recruitment of some 300 additional people at Roissy-CDG,” explains Guy Zacklad. We were thus able to draw up the list of staff as early as February. »

Air France and ADP have also organized weekly meetings with their subcontractors. This did not prevent some unpleasant surprises, such as the disastrous management of passengers with reduced mobility, in April and May. “At the beginning of June, the runway resources are secure, as well as for the handling of baggage”, assures the director of the Air France hub.

The “PIF” and the “PAF”, usual black spots

There remain the usual black spots which are the “PIF” and the “PAF” – the screening checkpoints for passengers on boarding and the air and border police. “During the crisis, some of the PAF police officers were reassigned elsewhere and this summer, their numbers will remain 15% lower than in 2019, explains Marc Houalla, director of Roissy-CDG airport. To remedy this lack, we rely on more intensive use of Parafe airlocks. Their access has been extended to eight non-European nationalities, including Americans and Canadians who represent 15% to 20% of CDG traffic. »

Thanks to this expansion, 40% of CDG passengers can now use the Parafe airlocks, “against barely 10% in 2019. Provided, however, that the airlocks are not broken, as happened again on 1er June. “I’m not saying that everything is rosy, answers Marc Houalla. But over the last four weeks, the average time spent at the PAF was 20 minutes. »

A situation still under control

On the side of the “PIF”, on the other hand, the lack of personnel cannot be compensated by technology. “We placed the same order with our service providers as in 2019, but due to recruitment difficulties and Covid measures, we will probably only be at 85% to 90% of the staff requested”, deplores the director of Roissy- CDG.

In an attempt to save time, ADP placed agents in the queues to remind passengers of good practices such as the need to remove liquids from bags. “The rate of bag searches at the PIF has gone from 12% before the crisis to 25% today,” underlines Marc Houalla.

But here again, the situation remained under control, “with in 60% of cases, a passage time at the” PIF “between 10 minutes and 20 minutes in 50% of cases”, underlines Marc Houalla. This does not exclude some slippages. “We are therefore not at all within the deadlines of Schiphol or Heathrow, even if in peak traffic, the waiting time can reach 30 to 45 minutes at the PIF and 45 minutes at the PAF”, concedes Marc Houalla.

It will nevertheless be better to remain cautious this summer, arriving well in advance, especially during the ultra-peak traffic of the crossover in July and August. “For a long-haul flight, we recommend arriving 3 hours in advance,” says Guy Zacklad.

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