More than 14,200 flights cancelled in Germany so far this year

Flights in Germany have been more punctual so far this year compared to 2018. But the total number of delays and cancellations remains extremely high.

More than 14,200 flights cancelled in Germany so far this year
Passengers waiting for flights at Frankfurt Airport in June. Photo: DPA

In fact, with the exception of last year, there have never been so many delayed and cancelled flights in the Bundesrepublik, according to a report by Spiegel using data from EUClaim

Airlines axed a total of 14,246 flights to, from and within Germany between January 1st and August 7th this year. That's about 30 percent fewer cancellations than in the same period in 2018 when 20,220 connections were cancelled. 

Experts say 2018 was an exceptional year because the industry was adapting to changes such as the bankruptcy of Air Berlin, and several strikes such as that of Ryanair staff members

But there are thousands more cancellations this year compared to 2017 when 11,549 flights were axed – or even in 2016 (10,333) and 2015 (9,052).

READ ALSO: When are airline passengers in Germany entitled to compensation?

Significant delays across German airports

According to the figures, passengers faced 3,753 delays of more than three hours between the start of the year and August 7th. For the same period last year that figure was 5,794 and in 2017 it was 3,738.

The number of late flights can also be seen in Germany’s two biggest airports, Frankfurt and Munich. 

More than 17,600 flights were at least 40 minutes late at Germany's largest airline hub, Frankfurt Airport  – and over 13,600 were delayed at Munich – between the start of this year and August 7th.

Photo: DPA

In 2018 that number was far higher: 22,126 for Frankfurt and 15,123 for Munich. In 2017 a total of 11,953 flights were at least 40 minutes late in Frankfurt and 7,000 in Munich. 

Paul Vaneker, flight data expert at EUClaim, said German airports are struggling with the amount of passengers. 

“Following the sharp increase in passenger numbers in recent years, many airports and airlines are now working at the edge of capacity,” he said.

“As long as everything goes according to plan, flight operations continue to largely function. However, as soon as unforeseen circumstances arise, delays and cancellations increase immediately.”

And, according to Vaneker, there have been less 'unforeseen circumstances' this year compared to the previous year. 

There were fewer storms on particularly busy spring weekends, and air traffic controllers in France went on strike less frequently. This makes the high number of cancellations all the more alarming, experts warn.

Under EU law, passengers are entitled to compensation when their flight lands at their destination more than three hours late.

Top 5 longest delays in Germany

When it comes to long waits, some flights really took the biscuit. Here are the top five longest delays in Germany so far this year:

1. July 26th, Onur Air OHY 806, Cologne-Antalya 63 hours, 32 minutes (technical problems)

2. June 20th, Sun Express XG 1760, Kayseri-Stuttgart 47 hours, 39 minutes (technical problems)

3. January 30th, Eurowings EW 1149, Montego Bay-Düsseldorf 46 hours, 52 minutes (weather conditions)

4.  July 12th, Tuifly X3 4609, Araxos (GR)-Frankfurt 40 hours, 8 minutes (weather conditions)

5. January 30th, Eurowings EW 1148, Düsseldorf-Montego Bay 32 hours, 12 minutes (weather conditions)

When it comes to airlines, passengers flying with Lufthansa and Eurowings face travel woes. 

There were 5,842 cancelled Lufthansa flights in the first half of this year, compared to 8,690 last year, and 725 flights with a three-hour delay (709 in the same period in 2018).

For Eurowings there were 2,627 cancelled flights, compared to 3,607 last year. And 477 flights had a three-hour delay, compared to 894 in 2018.

Airlines try to avoid bottlenecks

So what could be causing so many cancellations?

“When large airlines see that they will face capacity bottlenecks the next day, they often cancel individual aircrafts and transfer passengers to the next one – especially on routes with several flights a day, such as Munich-Berlin or Munich-Frankfurt,” said expert Vaneker.

However, there are fears that delays and cancellations will only get worse. In addition to increasing passenger numbers, airport ground staff are in short supply, according to industry insiders, which adds to the pressure and can result in changes to flight schedules. 

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Lufthansa delays flight from Minsk over ‘security warning’

German airline Lufthansa said it delayed the departure of a flight from Minsk to Frankfurt on Monday after it received a "security warning", one day after a forced landing over Belarus.

Lufthansa delays flight from Minsk over 'security warning'
Lufthansa flights await takeoff at Munich Airport. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP

The flight eventually took off for Frankfurt after renewed checks, with all passengers on board.

“The flight took off 10 minutes ago,” an airline spokesman told AFP at about 13.30pm GMT, one day after a forced landing over Belarus. “All passengers were on board as planned.”

The airline announced the delay on Monday morning, saying local Belarusian authorities had wanted to carry out a security check. 

“We are following the directions of the local authorities who are searching the plane again before departure and carrying out security checks again on
passengers,” an airline spokesman said.

Lufthansa said all luggage and freight had been removed from the aircraft, in which there were 51 people including five crew members.

“We regret the inconvenience for the passengers but the security of our passengers, crew and the plane take top priority at Lufthansa,” the spokesman said.

Soon after Lufthansa released its statement, Minsk airport said on its Telegram channel that “all necessary measures” to check the plane and its
passengers had been completed.

“The information about a terror attack, that was received on the airport’s email, wasn’t substantiated,” it said. “The plane is being readied for take-off, luggage is being loaded, boarding has been announced for Lufthansa flight LH1487 Minsk-Frankfurt.”

The security alert came one day after a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying dissident journalist Roman Protasevich was diverted while in
Belarusian airspace over a supposed bomb threat.

Accompanied by a Belarusian fighter jet on the orders of strongman Alexander Lukashenko, the plane landed in Minsk where Protasevich, a
26-year-old who had been living in Lithuania, was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend.