Holidaymakers face weeks of travel misery as Covid plans more airline flights

Irish holidaymakers face weeks of possible travel hardship and canceled summer flights due to staff absences due to Covid-19 and labor shortages.

It comes as Aer Lingus canceled more than 60 flights in the past week.

Yesterday, 25 flights scheduled to depart and arrive at Dublin Airport on Friday and Saturday were grounded, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Among other things, industrial action at Lyon airport has today resulted in the cancellation of two return flights to its airport.

Flights to and from Gatwick and Amsterdam have also been cancelled.

Figures show that working-age people aged 25 to 54 have been hardest hit by the summer wave, although the true level of infection is unknown.

The positivity rate for people with HSE PCR tests rose to over 40 percent yesterday, the highest in months, and the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 rose to 812, including 32 in intensive care.

UCD virologist Professor Gerald Barry said Covid-19 vaccines should not be outdated. “Open them up,” he urged, to allow people who want a second booster shot but are currently barred from the booster.

It comes amid growing concerns that a surge in Covid cases will affect transport services across the country as the summer holiday season gets into full swing.

Although key transport companies including Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail say disruption has so far been kept to a minimum, all are aware of the rising Covid levels among workers.

The National Transport Authority of Ireland (NTA) said all public transport operators are currently facing a growing challenge recruiting and retaining staff and that some services are having to be canceled at short notice due to Covid and other illnesses.

Bus Éireann said there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases among its staff over the past three weeks and several services have had to be cancelled.

A spokesman for the bus network said that more than 98 percent of connections across the country are currently operating according to the planned timetable.

Irish Rail currently has 38 staff off due to Covid-19, representing less than 1 per cent of its total workforce, and this is not impacting services at this time.

Dublin Bus is seeing around 2 per cent absenteeism from staff, with around 50 drivers currently absent due to Covid-19, a transport union representative has said.

Earlier this week the NTA said it was unable to continue offering services for concerts at Marlay Park, Dublin due to staff shortages.

“In general, services are quieter during the summer months as schools and colleges are closed,” said an NTA spokesman.

“The Authority welcomes the additional passengers from the various events taking place over the summer, but in many cases does not have the capacity to provide additional services for these events, particularly when they impact the operation of regular scheduled services.”

National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) secretary-general Dermot O’Leary said that although transport companies are only experiencing staff shortages of 1 to 2 percent, it “would have an impact”. “I understand that there are several surgeries with staff suffering from Covid-related illnesses, whether with Covid itself or isolating them, and when I say surgeries I mean the main drivers at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

“What I’m hearing anecdotally is that there are up to 50 drivers on Dublin Bus and up to 30 or 40 on Bus Éireann, which of course will have its own implications.”

The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said the hospitality industry was again very concerned about Covid-19 as restaurateurs have seen a spike in staff shortages over the past three weeks.

“We are currently seeing an increase in staff traveling with Covid. I suppose as we are seeing flight cancellations, particularly with Aer Lingus and if that company sees Covid we will see it across the country in all sectors,” he said. “We can see it in hospitality at the moment. Our difficulty is that when a chef is traveling with Covid, the whole company is under pressure.”