Expert tips on how business travellers can navigate challenges while travelling Europe this summer

Business travellers queuing up at the airport waiting to check in. Picture: Supplied

Business travellers queuing up at the airport waiting to check in. Picture: Supplied

Published May 30, 2024


The European summer holiday season usually brings some travel disruption but 2024 has a mixed bag of challenges for business travellers heading to Europe or transiting through one of its major airport hubs.

Corporate Traveller GM Bonnie Smith said that business travel requires proactive planning and flexibility during this period to pre-empt such challenges.

She highlighted that by staying informed and adjusting their approach, business travellers can navigate the challenges.

Here are some challenges to consider and how you can overcome them, according to the business travel expert.

Navigating strike action

Smith highlighted that one of the biggest culprits for delays and cancellations are strikes by airline, airport and rail staff.

“Strikes are an unfortunate but common occurrence during the peak European travel season. They can cause widespread disruptions that are hard for individual travellers to overcome,” said Smith.

In order to mitigate this, Smith recommended travellers to build in extra time for connections, delays and re-bookings when strike action is possible.

“Have a plan B for getting to your destination, whether that means taking the train, driving or being willing to fly into an alternate airport,” said Smith.

She also said that having a travel management company (TMC) monitor strike actions is invaluable as their teams watch for strike announcements and quickly retrieve clients’ bookings to re-accommodate them before the disruptions even begin.

Change of rules

Smith also pointed out that confusion around the changing rules for carrying liquids through airport security could mean longer wait times at checkpoints.

She recommended that business travellers build in extra time getting through security and to and from the airport when travelling through major hubs and also suggested checking for airport alerts and terminal updates before departure.

“Our travel managers have the latest intelligence on which airports and routes will be most impacted by these issues on any given day. We can steer travellers away from potential choke points and build in more connection time if needed,“ said the business travel expert.

She also highlighted that adding to the woes, some airlines have had to trim their summer schedules due to aircraft shortages from manufacturing delays, and as a result fewer flights plus higher demand equals higher fares and potentially more disruptions from overbooked flights.

“Book flights earlier than normal when you have inflexible travel dates. Opt for re-routing insurance in case you need to take a different path. And be prepared for potential weight restrictions on bags if your flight is overbooked,” advised Smith.

E-gate errors

Smith also noted that there are repeated technical glitches involving the UK’s airport e-gates. A nationwide e-gate failure in early May caused massive delays as passengers had to be manually processed, and similar issues have plagued the system in recent months.

“These e-gate meltdowns are hugely disruptive and there’s no easy way for travellers to work around them. Build in extra time for passing through immigration processing and be ready for very long lines,” advised the travel expert.

Olympic-size overcrowding

The business travel expert also advised business travellers not to forget the 2024 Paris Olympics, which takes place from late July through early September.

She said that the event will increase travel demand and put extra strain on the City of Lights’ hotels, roads and other infrastructure.

“For many business travellers, it will make sense to avoid Paris during the peak Olympic period if possible. The overcrowding and inflated prices for accommodation will be a challenge,” she said.

She said that if a Paris trip can't be avoided, your TMC can secure accommodations and transportation further in advance when more availability exists.

“Our negotiated rates also help offset the price surges common during major events like the Olympics,” said Smith.

The business travel expert said that with so many potential disruptors on the horizon this summer in Europe, having back-up plans and building in extra time will be critical for corporate travellers.

“Be proactive, patient and ready to pivot your plans with little notice. It’s going to be a rocky few months for European business travel,“ she said.