Winter travel havoc persists

Winter weather continued to wreak havoc on German air travel on Friday, with more snow, sleet and freezing temperatures forcing airports to cancel flights across the country.

Winter travel havoc persists
De-icing a plane. Photo: DPA

At Frankfurt Airport, the largest hub in the country, 40 flights were cancelled and countless delays expected, spokesperson Gunnar Schenuemann said.

In Berlin, all flights by low-cost airlines EasyJet and Germanwings leaving from the Schönefeld Airport were cancelled due to a shortage of de-icing materials. A truck with fresh supplies was reportedly caught in a traffic jam caused by the snow on Thursday.

GlobeGround, which de-ices planes at the German capital’s two main airports Tegel and Schönefeld, said that manufacturers were experiencing “drastic” problems not only in delivering to airports but also in production.

“GlobeGround’s de-icer stocks have fallen dramatically. There are currently nine orders for Tegel and Schoenefeld that have not been made, many of them were supposed to have come two days ago,” it said.

Air Berlin, Germany’s second-biggest airline after Lufthansa, said that there had been shortages in recent days, but that the situation had returned to normal on Friday.

“We think it is a structural problem. There are only a few firms in Europe (who make de-icer), leading to shortages across Europe, which could become a problem this winter,” a spokeswoman told news agency AFP.

Schönefeld spokesperson Leif Erichsen said flight schedules for other airlines were expected to return to normal by midday.

Click here for photos of Germany’s winter weather.

EasyJet recommended that passengers check their website to find out whether their flight had been cancelled, and offered refunds or complimentary booking changes.

Meanwhile snow continued to blanket the country, with another 10 centimetres expected in the Alps within 12 hours, the German Weather Service (DWD) reported.

The mountains could also see storm winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour that will likely lead to drifting.

Drivers should remain cautious due to quickly forming black ice on roads, the DWD said.

In the state of Saxony-Anhalt police reported 426 traffic accidents on Thursday, with two deaths and 36 injuries.

Snow drifts in the region reached almost two metres along roadways, creating traffic jams lasting for hours as many drivers abandoned their vehicles.

Snow and ice also snarled traffic on the A3 and A48 motorways in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate near Montabaur, police said.

In North Rhine-Westphalia police reported 359 accidents in the last 24 hours, with four severe injuries and damages estimated at almost €750,000.

In Bavaria police said they reported to about 100 accidents near Regensburg between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. One young woman was killed in a collision, and another six were injured in separate accidents.

But conditions had improved slightly around Heidelberg, in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, where police were able to reopen the B37 motorway after a 24-hour closure due to flooding by the Neckar River.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.


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Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?