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Even airline employees are having trouble finding a seat home from Europe this summer


International passengers walk through the arrivals area at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on November 26, 2021 in London, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Airlines want people to take a European vacation this summer — as along it is not their employees.

Carriers are discouraging their staff from using their worker perks for travel to and from a few of Europe’s biggest airports, warning that getting a seat home can be difficult.

The moves come as airport labor shortages and industry strikes have made European summer travel difficult, just as airlines were hoping to capitalize on higher bookings after a pandemic slump of greater than two years.

American Airlines has barred staff from using their flight advantages for private travel to and from London Heathrow through “at the least” Sept. 11 and had temporarily banned the usage of those perks from Amsterdam, through July 31. United Airlines has prohibited the usage of buddy passes — deeply discounted flights for family and friends — on trips through London Heathrow through at the least the tip of August.

United can also be telling staff in regards to the challenges with overseas travel this summer and to prioritize customers, a spokesman said.

Those decisions got here after Britain’s busiest airport established departing passenger caps in an effort to ease congestion this summer.

Free and deeply discounted tickets are selling point for airlines as they seek to staff up to fulfill a jump in bookings. But carriers also wish to fill as many seats as possible with paying customers. Using those staff travel perks as a so-called non-rev or non-revenue passenger means flying standby, compared with the confirmed space of a paying traveler.

While getting a free or discounted seat is usually a bet during peak periods, this summer is proving especially tough for airline staff dreaming of an affordable European vacation.

“Many European airports are experiencing overcrowding, significant delays and passenger caps, greatly limiting non-rev departure availability,” American Airlines said in a message to staff on Aug. 5. 

The message said that only “a handful” of travelers attempting to use buddy passes recently for flights back to the U.S. were accommodated, and that those attempting to use the passes would likely be stuck in Europe for an prolonged period.

Strains at some European airports could persist after the height summer travel season. Earlier this month Amsterdam Schiphol said it might cap passenger departures into October.

“The aim of setting a maximum is to make sure the security of passengers and employees and to create a reliable process on the airport,” the airport said in a press release.

The problems aren’t just limited to Europe. JetBlue Airways paused standby pass travel, including for workers, between Recent York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Guayaquil Jose Joaquin De Olmedo Airport on account of “heavy flight and bag loads” into the Ecuadorian airport, based on an worker note seen by CNBC.

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