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Hundreds of flights cancelled across Germany as security staff strike

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at airports across Germany on Tuesday as security staff walked out in a dispute over wages.

Departure board shows several flights cancelled at Hamburg airport on Tuesday.
Departure board shows several flights cancelled at Hamburg airport on Tuesday March 22nd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The one-day strike called by labour union Verdi affected eight airports, including the country’s largest in Frankfurt which asked passengers not to come to the airport.

It marks the latest escalation in a row about higher pay for roughly 25,000 airport security personnel, and comes after warning strikes already caused
travel disruptions last week.

As of mid-afternoon, Berlin-Brandenburg and Düsseldorf airport each had cancelled around 140 flights, while Hamburg said it had scrapped all 88 planned departures for the day.

Frankfurt airport had axed 118 flights, operator Fraport said.

At Düsseldorf Airport, 140 of a total of 260 departures and arrivals were cancelled as of mid-afternoon, and at Cologne-Bonn Airport, 50 of 60 take-offs were axed. The situation was similar in Stuttgart, where, according to a spokeswoman, 40 out of 50 departures were cancelled.

The airports of Bremen and Hanover were also badly affected.

The Verdi union is asking for at least one euro more per hour ($1.10) for staff, and wants to standardise salaries nationwide in what would amount to a
pay hike of up to 40 percent for workers in some regions.

READ ALSO: Eight German airports hit by security staff strike

Security checks are under the supervision of the Federal Police and are largely outsourced to private service providers. Security workers at Bavarian airports are paid according to the collective agreement and are therefore not affected by the current strikes.

The BDLS, the German association of aviation safety companies that is negotiating with Verdi, has accused the union of not being “constructive” in the talks.

The industrial action was criticised by the German Aviation Association (BDL), which said it dealt a further blow to an industry still struggling to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The strike “affects mainly air travel and many thousands of passengers”, said BDL executive director Matthias von Randow, calling the stoppage “unfair” and “disproportionate”.

The next round of talks is scheduled for Thursday.

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TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

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