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Need I say Moores

Overstretched? ​

It’s not unusual for one individual airline to go through a bumpy patch of operational problems, but when several admit to having difficulties, is it a sign that the industry is already overstretched?

I’ve been covering aviation news for over 15 years. In that time, there’s been plenty of turbulence, but I don’t recall a time quite like this.

Last autumn, Ryanair announced huge waves of cancellations because of crew-scheduling problems. The situation became a costly mess for Ryanair, but it seemed like an isolated issue.

Since then, other airlines have been apologizing for their own operational disruptions. Did Ryanair open the door to saying sorry, or is this a sign of a wider problem?

In late August, SAS accepted responsibility for “traffic disturbances,” which impacted 2% of the airline’s passengers over the summer. “I do admit we had issues. We are not trying to shy away from it, in any shape or form,” SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson said. The disruption was caused by crew and staff shortages, technical issues, air traffic control (ATC) delays and late aircraft deliveries from Airbus, he said.

Around the same time, Slovenian carrier Adria Airways came forward about problems with its schedules, caused by rapid growth. “We let you down,” it admitted, asking passengers: “Do not lose your trust in us.”

Meanwhile, easyJet and Ryanair have both admitted that excessive hand luggage is an ongoing issue that is causing delays. That is hardly surprising when their load factors are frequently above 90% - a level that would have been unimaginable in decades gone by.

Suppliers, too, are struggling to keep pace with traffic growth and the huge pressure to deliver technological advances. Aircraft delivery delays, engine replacement troubles, ATC capacity issues and labor shortages are becoming common operational headaches for airlines.

Some industry commentators have already warned that the industry is not geared up to handle its own success. Could these difficulties be the sign of tougher times – and more apologies - to come?

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@informa.com

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