This is an important topic for us all to discuss. This is Aer Lingus’s fifth time attending this committee since the pandemic started. On this occasion, we are here to discuss the operational issues associated with the sector’s recovery.
I will take these issues in turn, starting by putting the disruptions in the aviation sector in context. Doubtlessly, passenger experience has suffered across the aviation sector this summer and some Aer Lingus customers have had their travel disrupted. While Aer Lingus has had cancellations, our flight completion rate was 100% in May and more than 98% in June. Therefore, the vast majority of our customers and their baggage were successfully delivered. Indeed, Aer Lingus operated one of the most robust schedules of any of the European network carriers. We planned, for example, to operate 8,353 flights in June, and we operated 8,130 flights. Therefore, if we compare Aer Lingus' cancellation rate of 1.8% in June with rates elsewhere among large European network carriers, we can see that Lufthansa cancelled 10% of its operations, Air France cancelled 7%, KLM cancelled 11% and EasyJet cancelled 14%.
Aer Lingus apologises to all customers caught up in disruptions and we assure them we are doing everything we can to resolve the issues.
Aer Lingus is incredibly frustrated with the operational disruptions this summer and our staff are doing a remarkable job under significant pressure. I publicly thank the Aer Lingus people and team for what they are doing to look after customers over this summer, with the very many challenges that we are facing.
I will first comment on the readiness of Aer Lingus for the summer. Last October, we published our schedule. We were clear, at that point, of our intention to operate 90% of the 2019 level by the peak summer. We made our schedules publically available. We put our schedules on sale. After the Omicron wave, at the end of last year and beginning of this year, we reiterated our intention to reach 90% of pre-Covid capacity by the summer peak. Aer Lingus planned for this. We planned, recruited and adjusted contracts, where necessary, to ensure that we had the right resources going into the summer, and the right resources with more of a buffer than we would have had for any normal summer. Indeed, in terms of staffing levels, for what was 81% of passengers last June, we had 91% of our staff. There was a significant increase, therefore, in the buffer that we would normally have to accommodate and support any disruption that we might see. Nevertheless, the level of disruption in the system has been significant, which has had an impact on our customers and I will discuss this matter shortly. The readiness of Aer Lingus was not matched by airports and ground handling companies around the network. If every airport and handling agent was as ready as Aer Lingus, then we would not be facing the scale of disruption that passengers are seeing across the network.
I turn to airports and later I will more broadly discuss airports around Europe. In terms of Dublin Airport, I will not cover the specifics of the issues at the beginning of the season as I think that they have been well covered at this committee. Undoubtedly, we have seen an improvement, particularly in screening, at the airport as the summer has progressed and as resources have come on board with the DAA. Aer Lingus acknowledges that those improvements have been in place.
We need to see improvements not only in security screening but also in bussing services, which move passengers and crew around the airport, and in passenger mobility services, which enables passengers to get on and off an aircraft in a timely manner. We need to see improvement in all of those sectors and, indeed, in the cleanliness around the airport as well.
The advice for passengers to arrive at the airport 2.5 hours before departure for a short-haul flight and 3.5 hours before departure for a long-haul flight remains problematic for us. Passengers check in or drop off a bag during the early morning peak so they compete with passengers who are flying later in the day. That situation causes a level of congestion at the points of check in and bag drop, which would be unnecessary if the recommendations were not in place. We need to see further improvements but there has been significant improvements so far this summer. We trust that the work is under way to permanently address these issues. Please note that these issues are not unique to Dublin, which I will discuss in a moment.
More generally, we feel the impact of the infrastructure deficit at Dublin Airport in operations today. That situation will become more critical in the future. Therefore, it is really important that these infrastructural deficits are addressed in a timely manner as the airport and airlines grow passenger numbers into the future.
I refer to the wider aviation system pressures that we are seeing and experiencing. Our operating model of network carriers like Aer Lingus requires significant passengers flows from other airlines and short-haul flights on to long-haul flights. It is inherently more complex than that of a point-to-point airline. We operate to nine out the ten European airports that have been most impacted by disruption and we see that in our connecting traffic, and through the impact on connecting customers in the Dublin hub.
I would like to outline some of the pressures that the system is experiencing. We are seeing an under-resourcing at airports, particularly across Europe. We are seeing under resourcing with ground handlers and other airlines across Europe. That has been a failures of those parties to plan for the return in demand that we had expected for this summer. As a consequence, we are being told to do mandatory cancellations, particularly from Amsterdam airport and Heathrow airport, to reduce our flights and the number of flights that we had planned. We are seeing security screening issues and baggage system failures in these airports, particularly at Amsterdam Airport and Heathrow Airport. Where airports have closed terminals, and not yet reopened them, so the terminals where we are operating are incredibly congested and the infrastructure struggles to cope. We are seeing stand and gate availability problems when we arrive in these European airports. In addition, there has been industrial action, particularly by French and Italian air traffic control, which has added further disruption to this summer. Finally, we have not seen the end of Covid sickness, which has impacted Aer Lingus in recent months and also has an impact on many of the resources around the European system.
These are a unique set of challenges as Aer Lingus and other airlines ramp up into the summer. I will now explore about what that means for our operations and for some of our customers. The reality is that the operational challenges make it impossible for Aer Lingus to deliver the experience that we would like for some of our customers. The vast majority or more than 98% of flights are operating as planned and the vast majority of customers are getting to their destination as planned. However, we are seeing impacts of the delays in the system. These effects include: queues at check-in areas as passengers arrive early, as we have seen at Dublin Airport, for security screening; delays at security screening, thus passengers are late getting to the aircraft for boarding and departure; delays elsewhere in Europe for passengers with reduced mobility and the airport services provided to get those passengers on and off the aircraft; delays in bussing across the European system in moving passengers and crew around the airports; and delays having an impact on stand availability at airports around Europe for incoming aircraft, which causes knock-on delays. This means that we can start the day ready with crew, aircraft and ground handling resources but as the day progresses we see the following: poor punctuality as all of these issues around the European system play out; customers and their bags miss connecting flights; and as delays compound matters over the course of the day, our crews reach their duty hour limits and that can have an impact on their availability for the next day's rosters. These issues are compounding. Due to all of these factors we must occasionally cancel flights, which leads to further disruption.
In terms of baggage issues, for the point-to-point journeys such as simple journeys like Dublin to Malaga, the vast majority of passengers and bags travel there with no issues at all. Where we see particular problems is with connecting bags. I mean connecting bags that come from big European airports that are experiencing problems. In fact, 60% of the issues that we see with out bags stem from connections from other airlines so interline connections on to Aer Lingus. In many cases, we have never seen nor touched those bags, and those bags do not make it to Dublin to be reunited with the passenger.
The huge increase in the number of misplaced bags across the system puts significant strain on our resources in Dublin. Mr. O'Neill and his team are working incredibly hard to locate bags and reunite them with passengers, as much as we can. They are clearing bags every day but we find more bags are misplaced every day as we continue to operate to these airports that suffer from these problems.
There was a peak of 1,800 open files associated with baggage in mid-June. That figure has now been reduced to 1,200. We are still clearing bags and experiencing further bag problems on a daily basis at the main hub airports of Heathrow, Amsterdam and Paris, in particular.
These issues compound to affect customer experience and customer care. As a consequence of everything I have outlined, our customer call centres are inundated with queries that relate to ticketing, baggage issues, cancellations and missed connections. Over the last four weeks, the volume of calls to our call centres has increased massively in comparison with pre-pandemic levels. The time is it taking agents to deal with each issue has increased fourfold due to the complex nature of customer queries. For the most part, the issues are outside of our control and therefore difficult to resolve for customers. That is resulting in an unprecedented increase in demand on our call centres. Given the volume of demand we are now dealing with, we are unable to provide the level of care we would like to provide for each and every customer who has experienced disruption. As I said, every cancellation and missed bag hurts. We apologise to every customer who has had a less than satisfactory experience. We are doing everything we can to try to mitigate the issues, most of which are outside of our control.
On our schedule, we have leased aircraft and crew to provide extra backup in the case of cancellations and disruption. We have extended connection times between flights to try to minimise the number of bags and customers caught up in delays or having problems making their connecting flights. We have continued to recruit staff. Even though we were ready for the volumes of the summer, the extra disruption issues are putting a further burden on our resources. We have continued to recruit staff in light of the disruption being experienced. We have deployed technology and new processes to try to locate bags. We are using third-party transport operators to try to get bags to customers as quickly as possible. We have added more staff to our call centres. We deploy volunteers from head office and the support areas of the business to the airport every day to try to help our operational teams with the issues and to expedite the resolution of baggage issues, in particular.
I trust this gives members some indication of the challenges that Aer Lingus is facing in what is a very disrupted summer for the industry and the steps we are taking in response to those challenges. As I said, the pressures to which I have referred are pressures in the wider aviation system. Dublin Airport is by no means the only airport at which they exist. Despite the challenges, Aer Lingus is performing strongly in managing the issues that are within our control. We are also doing everything possible to influence and address the many matters that are outside of our control. I reiterate my thanks to Aer Lingus staff, who are going above and beyond to help customers as they work through this very challenging summer.
To conclude on a more positive note, I wish to put the scale of the increase in passenger numbers into context. In June 2021, a mere 300,000 passengers travelled through Dublin Airport. The figure for June 2022 was 2.8 million. While the recovery in traffic has brought many challenges, it is critical to the wider Irish economy.