Sick workers delay flights across Sweden

Airline passengers across Sweden risk encountering flight delays of up to two hours on Tuesday due to a shortage of air traffic controllers at Stockholm's Arlanda airport.

Sick workers delay flights across Sweden

“The air traffic control centre directs the planes when they leave the airport and are up in the air. When we reach a critical point, we must limit the number of aircraft for safety reasons. It usually happens when we are short four to five people,” said Per Fröberg, press officer at the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (Luftfartsverket, LFV).

The reason for the staff shortage is the lack of cover for sick staff, according to Fröberg.

SAS has cancelled eight departures on Tuesday and has warned that more may be in store. The airline warned that more flights could be cancelled unless the situation improves during the day.

All flights, including domestic, foreign and overflight traffic, will be hit by delays until at least 3pm.

“There are four morning departures to Umeå, Malmö, Luleå and Gothenburg. They have been cancelled in both directions. We are doing our best now to book all customers onto later flights,” said Anders Lindström, press spokesman for the airline.

Travellers are advised to go to the airport or visit airline websites for more information.

Air traffic at Arlanda has encountered several delays since last month due to a shortage of staff at the air control center in Stockholm, according to Peter Lennartsson, president of the Swedish Union of Civil Servants’ (Statstjänstemannaförbundet – ST) flight management arm.

“We have had a large shortage of staff for several years. They have worked on recruiting, but have never successfully had a full team. At the end of the year, there will be a shortage of 10 to 12 people,” he said.

The supply of controllers is less than the demand, added Lennartsson. More controllers are currently being trained, but it will take some time before they can start working.

“Our job is flight safety and when there are too few people, we have to cut down on the number of flights,” said Lennartsson.

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EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden’s airport chaos?

Stockholm Arlanda Airport is once again suffering hour-long queues for security due to a surge in travel and personnel shortages. What can you do if you miss your flight?

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden's airport chaos?

What’s the situation at Arlanda over the Ascension Day weekend? 

According to the airport operator Svedavia, the worst peak for the long weekend is probably over. “Today looks good with no long waiting time at Arlanda,” Ellen Laurin, the company’s press officer, told The Local on Friday. “Yesterday morning [Thusday], we had a morning peak before nine in the morning, and the rest of the day was OK.” 

According to Swedavia’s website, waiting times at security were less than five minutes on Friday morning.  

However, she warned that there could once again be big queues on Sunday when those who have travelled to Sweden over the long weekend make their way home. 

“Sunday is a big travel day when people will fly home again. There could be queues at peak times,” she said. “We recommend that passengers have a close contact with their airline for information about their flight. It is important to have extra time at the airport and to be prepared.  

READ ALSO: What’s behind the queues at Arlanda Airport? 

Which airports in other countries have problems? 

Arlanda is not the only airport facing problems due to delays staffing up again after the pandemic. On Friday morning, Twitter users were complaining of two-hour queues at the border control at Heathrow Airport in the UK, while at the UK’s Manchester Airport, passengers were reporting queues for security of up to two hours on Thursday. 

Dublin Airport is also facing regular two-hour queues at security. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport had a 1km security queue on Thursday, pushing the Dutch airline KLM to cancel flights. 

Can I get compensation or insurance payments if I missed my flight due to the queues? 

The SAS airline has already underlined that it is their customers’ responsibility to make sure that they arrive at the airport in sufficiently good time to make their flight. 

“To be certain you can come with us, you should be in good time, and if you are in good time, you will manage to get your flight,” she told state broadcaster SR. “It is always the customer’s responsibility to be on your way as early as is necessary.”

People who miss flights are also likely to struggle to get payouts from travel insurance, warned Gabriella Hallberg, an expert on travel insurance at the Swedish Consumers’ Insurance Bureau. 

“If you’re at the airport and are hit by security controls that take a very long time, they consider that it is the consumer themselves who have not planned their journey,” she told SR

She said that it might be possible to find an insurance company that is willing to insure against flights missed due to security queues.