In 2015, European air passenger traffic grew by 2.9%, just short of reaching 900 million, while global growth reached 6.5%. Needless to say, carriers and existing infrastructure has been exposed to more and more stress, which has impacted operations and performance. The European Consumer Center (ECC) reported that 69% of passengers indicated excessive flight delays as the main reason for trip disruptions, followed by 21% for lost or damaged baggage, and 15% for flight cancellations. So what lies ahead?
The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) predicts that air transportation demand will grow at an average of 3.8% per year. This means that passenger numbers will reach 7 billion by 2034, of which Europe alone is expected to add 591 million on a yearly basis. Such growth will probably be an even greater challenge to the already lagging infrastructure and is likely to impact operations and service delivery.
Sure, 2034 is still 18 years away and such predictions are highly speculative. But under current conditions, the expectation that surging air passenger traffic will be easily met by the industry is not very plausible. Building an airport or an extra terminal takes anywhere between 3 and 6 years, not including a “red-tape” period. Airport expansion faces a number of challenges, including much longer lead times and intense stakeholder dialogue. Aviation infrastructure is also sometimes viewed as “trophy projects”, which only further widens the gap between the airlines and the governments carrying-out these projects.
For the airlines, the combination of trying to cope with the infrastructure challenge, while meeting the growing demand, increasing consumer expectations, keeping the margins slim and staying competitive creates an incredibly difficult operational environment. I’ve been seeing it first-hand in my airline days, and I don’t think that anticipating an increase in flight disruptions caused by scheduling, rerouting, aircraft substitutions, compliance to regulation and unions is all that unreasonable.
So what’s one to do in anticipation for more Flight Delays?
Stay informed about your passenger rights and know what to do when your flight gets delayed, cancelled or overbooked. EU Regulation 261/2004 is set robustly in place and the European Council along with the Court of Justice of the European Union have set strong precedents and stated their commitment to defend passenger rights.
Beat the delay and get the most out of your air passenger rights!
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