Go to the airport early

PARIS (AP) — The head of the Air France-KLM airline alliance said Thursday it would take weeks or months to introduce new security guards to ease pressure on Amsterdam airport. , which has seen flight cancellations, damaging delays and major travel headaches. as global air travel rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith told reporters the company was seeking compensation for some of its losses, blaming the unrest at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on lack of security and other personnel on the ground beyond KLM’s control.

As the Dutch government faces pressure to find solutions, once security personnel are recruited, “it could take weeks or months to have them in position” due to government security clearance requirements , Smith said.

Airlines and airports that have cut jobs during the pandemic are struggling to meet growing travel demand, and passengers face chaotic scenes at airports in Europe and the United States

Smith played down concerns about an Air France pilot strike scheduled for Saturday, saying only a small minority of pilots are expected to take part and he does not expect it to affect operations.

Paris’ main airport, Charles de Gaulle, has not seen many travel disruptions like those in Amsterdam, London and some other hubs. Smith attributed this to Air France’s decision last year to hire hundreds of pilots, mechanics and cabin crew in anticipation of increased demand this summer.

Airlines are still downsizing: 7,500 people have been laid off or left Air France because of the pandemic travel crash, and KLM has lost 3,000.

But Smith said all airline planes are working and the company expects 85% to 90% of pre-pandemic flight activity this summer around the world.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand for leisure travel, people who haven’t been able to fly for two years,” he said.

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

Soaring global fuel prices are sending airfare prices skyrocketing, but Smith said that’s not stopping people from flying.

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

Still, he warned that due to high fuel costs and broader inflation, “we’re not going to see a year of golden profits.” It’s still a long way” to pre-pandemic operations.

The French and Dutch governments saved Air France and KLM from near collapse when the pandemic hit, with billions of euros in loans. Smith said the company hopes to repay 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 to travel, but warned travelers: “Allow extra time to enter and exit airports – and book early. The flights are filling up.

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