© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, participates in a panel discussion during the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on October 5, 2021. R
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Airlines said on Sunday they were ready to avoid a repeat of last year’s travel chaos, but warned that some flights could still be disrupted by strikes by controllers and run into delays. schemes that require them to pay compensation for unavoidable delays.
“I’m reasonably confident that we can get through this peak of summer without too much disruption,” International Air Transport Association (IATA) chief executive Willie Walsh said on Sunday.
Airline executives attending IATA’s annual meeting in Istanbul this week, however, remain concerned about air traffic control disruptions in Europe and the United States.
“But as far as they’re concerned, they’ve fulfilled their obligation to put their resources in place for this summer. I think most airports will be fine too; I think they’ve learned from last year,” Walsh told Reuters.
A faster-than-expected rebound in air travel, coupled with labor shortages, caused chaos at several airports in Europe and North America last summer and sparked a row between airlines and airports about passenger caps to ease the pressure.
The growing number of disputes between travelers and airlines around the world has led to calls for compensation for passengers.
Legislation is being reviewed in Canada, while the US government drafts new rules and the European Union pushes for stricter enforcement of its existing “Regulation 261” which requires compensation for delays of more than three hours.
“At the end of the day, it’s the consumer who pays because of course that’s borne by the industry, but the industry can’t just absorb that,” Walsh said.
“The more expense airlines have to incur due to issues beyond their control, the more that will affect ticket prices, and it will drive up ticket prices. It’s a very, very frustrating environment in which to operate.” .
Some passenger groups have accused airlines of circumventing compensation by invoking an exemption for exceptional circumstances. EU rules allow such exemptions as long as airlines can prove they took reasonable steps to avoid any delays.
Airlines have reported strong bookings for this summer as air traffic returns to pre-COVID levels.
European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned late last year that 2023 could be “the most difficult year of the last decade” due to the conflict in Ukraine, possible strikes, the increase in the number of aircraft and the reopening of Asian markets.