Europe travel chaos: Barcelona airport employees asked to work in UK and the Netherlands

"Temporary" contracts for El Prat workers to relocate to Gatwick and Schiphol

A plane taking off from the Barcelona airport (by Àlex Recolons)
A plane taking off from the Barcelona airport (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 15, 2022 10:33 AM

As the demand for flights picks up once again following the worst of the pandemic, European airports have been faced with weeks of chaos at the beginning of the summer vacation season, prompting airlines and handling companies that operate out of Barcelona's El Prat to begin to ask workers to relocate to places like Schiphol (the Netherlands) or Gatwick (United Kingdom).

These are "temporary" work offers that, according to the CCOO and UGT unions, only 10 to 40 people have accepted. 

"It is very, very, very unusual" to have this many airport workers relocated, CCOO's Jorge Carrillo told the Catalan News Agency (ACN).

Covid layoffs

Many airports in countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany or the United Kingdom "laid off a significant number of permanent staff" during the pandemic as travel plummeted, Carrillo explained.

But now that demand is once again on the rise, they are experiencing labor shortages that have translated into canceled flights, lost suitcases, and long check-in lines. 

In Catalonia, on the other hand, many airport workers were furloughed rather than laid off, meaning they were able to return to work when needed – in April alone, El Prat had 94.8% as many flights as before the pandemic.

"We're not the problem – the rest of Europe is," Enrique Montes of the UGT union told ACN, adding that El Prat was indirectly impacted by flight delays from elsewhere in Europe and "planes that arrive with no suitcases."

3-hour passport control lines

Both the Barcelona and Madrid airports now have longer than usual passport control lines.

Spain has long been a popular tourist destination for Brits. But now, UK passport-holders must go through the much longer non-EU queues.

"Over the past few days, it is not uncommon for people to have had to wait in line for over three hours," travel agency association ACAVE complained. This situation has forced the Spanish government to send another 500 passport control officers to airports – a move ACAVE still calls "insufficient."

Ryanair strike

Two unions – USO and Sitcpla – have called for Ryanair's cabin crew in Spain to go on strike for six days over two weekends: June 24-26 and June 30-July 2.

In a statement, the unions said that Ryanair employees continue to be treated like "third-class workers" and called on the company to comply with "basic labor rights and court rulings."

The low-cost carrier, however, has said it believes its employees will not go on strike