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‘Arrive three hours early’: Your tips for flying in Germany this summer

Crowded airports, long waits in security and disruption to flights - lots of travellers have been facing these problems while flying in Europe. Here's what readers in Germany had to say.

Passengers at the security control at Berlin's airport.
Passengers at the security control at Berlin's airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Catching a flight can be a stressful experience at the best of times. But due to major staff shortages and a surging demand for travel after Covid restrictions were eased, flying is even more difficult. 

Travellers in Germany are also seeing disruption, including delays and cancelled flights or having to queue for a long time to check-in or go through security. 

READ ALSO: How air passengers across Europe face a summer of flight chaos 

Kuwano, originally from Japan and now living in Berlin, said he uses the BER airport to travel abroad three or four times a month for business. He said the situation has been chaotic lately.

When he flew to Paris on June 1st, he said there were long waits at the check-in and bag drop-off counters – and it got progressively worse.

“As I made my way to the security gate, I despaired,” the 34-year-old told The Local. “There was a queue from near the gate where the tickets were checked. It reminded me of Disneyland in Japan. But there was no elation, as if I was about to go on a dreamy ride to meet the characters.”

Kuwano said seven people asked to go in front of him in the security line because they were afraid they would miss their flight. 

“There was also a long queue at the counter when I went through the security gate to buy water,” he said. “I gave up, went to the toilet and checked the time, only to find that we had five minutes until departure. There were so many people rushing to the plane on the final call that the departure was eventually delayed by 20 minutes.”

Kuwana said he would take the train in future when possible instead of flying.

‘Airlines need to cancel flights early’

In a survey for the Local, most people said they were concerned about travelling by air this summer because of the issues.

READ ALSO: How your travel plans to Germany could change this summer

Kristoffer, 42, said Berlin’s airport “needs to manage and prompt people better at security”.

A sign for security at Hamburg airport.

A sign for security checks at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

“A lot of time is wasted not knowing what to expect when going through security control. Airlines needs to cancel flights early rather than late to minimise disruption.”

Smruthi Panyam, 43, flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt. He said: “Sorry to say but the lines at the airport check-in are so long even for business class, I recommend reaching the airport at least three hours prior to your flight.”

Chris, 40, who has flown at various German airports recently, said: “Leave lots of time, be prepared for last-minute changes and do your research with flight trackers etc. if possible.”

Bego, 43, flew from Hamburg and said security control was “chaos”. He advised people to arrive 2.5 hours early to the airport. 

Another respondent, Russ, 58, who lives in Mainz said he has flown from Frankfurt and Munich airports recently. He said both were “very crowded” with long lines to check in luggage and go through security.

“Expect and plan for delays and flight cancellations,” he said. “If traveling for vacation, plan at least a two-day buffer for your return, so that delays/cancellations don‘t cause missed work or missed school.

“Airlines should reduce the number of reservations they accept until airline and airport resources can catch up to demand. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen, as airlines are happy to take consumers‘ money now, and push their resource problems onto the consumers later.”

As The Local reported, Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa said last week it was cancelling 900 flights in July alone due to the staffing problems.

But bosses warned that disruption could still happen despite the schedule cuts. 

A big part of the problem is that many people who worked for airlines and airports lost their job or were forced to look for other jobs due to reduced work at the height of Covid when travel was severely restricted.

READ ALSO: Germany may face airport chaos in summer, warns minister

Several readers said the aviation industry needed to make a big effort to restore staffing levels to what they were before the pandemic. 

‘Bring your own meal’

Some respondents to our survey flagged up the different experiences they’ve had in German airports

Jonathan, 37, said at Cologne airport, hardly any shops were open, while in Frankfurt there’s a “complete rat race” if you need to change flights or get to another terminal or gate because of ongoing construction. 

He called for “better management of airline timetables”.

People walk in Frankfurt airport.

Travellers walk in Frankfurt airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hannes P. Albert

“Christmas was a peak travel time (despite Omicron) and it went off without a hitch,” said Jonathan. “Yet suddenly – presumably with the same staff available as at Christmas, the summer is suddenly lacking staff.”

Sandra, 54, flew from Baden-Baden. She advised that air passengers bring a mobile phone charger and a meal with them because lots of outlets close early.

Meanwhile, Allison, 37, who travelled from Hamburg airport said people should also leave plenty of time for getting to the airport. She said there’s been “lots of disruption on the S3 line lately”.

The Local approached some large German airports to ask how they are dealing with the current situation.

A spokesman from BER airport told The Local: “Together with all our partners at the airport, we are currently meticulously preparing for the upcoming summer travel season so that our passengers can relax and take off on holiday from BER.

“Within the industry, there is a shortage of skilled workers to meet staffing needs as demand picks up. This does not affect the airport company Berlin Brandenburg. But partners at BER can also be affected. Therefore, at peak times we cannot always rule out having to ask passengers to be patient.”

The spokesman advised passengers to arrive at least two hours before departure and have all documents ready for the flight.

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Majority of Germans in favour of ‘extending the €9 ticket’

The €9 ticket is set to expire at the end of the month. But more than half of Germans want the cheap travel deal to continue, according to a new survey.

Majority of Germans in favour of 'extending the €9 ticket'

In three weeks’ time, Germany’s cheap summer travel offer will come to an end. While members of the traffic light coalition government have been unable to agree on a continuation of the ticket, the majority of Germans are in favour of keeping the heavily-discounted travel card in place.

According to a survey conducted by the opinion research institute Civey for German news magazine Spiegel, 55 percent would like to see an extension of the ticket, which allows people to use public transportation throughout Germany for €9 per month. Meanwhile, 34 percent of Germans are against extending the offer. 

READ ALSO: Could drivers in Germany fund a future €9 ticket scheme?

The survey also showed that mainly Green Party supporters are for an extension of the €9 ticket, as more than two-thirds are in favour of continuing the deal. A majority of supporters of the Left Party and the SPD are also in favour of continuing the discount campaign.

Leading Green Party politicians have put forward proposals for a cheap successor to the €9 ticket: a regional ticket for €29 and a nationwide ticket for €49 a month. 

Meanwhile, FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner has heavily criticised demands for extending the cheap transport deal. On Monday he tweeted that a “freebie mentality is not sustainably financeable, not efficient and not fair”. He also told the  Augsburger Allgemeine that there is no scope for an extension in the federal budget.

The Spiegel poll backs up the results of a questionnaire conducted by The Local, which showed that 85.4 percent of readers want the €9 ticket to continue after August. Meanwhile, 47.2 percent of readers said that reduced cost was the most important issue for them in relation to public transport in Germany. 

READ ALSO: ‘Affordable and simple’: What foreigners in Germany want to see after the €9 ticket

Reader Asa from Hamburg, 26, told the Local “I’d love to see a successor to the €9 ticket supported. It’s given me the chance to explore the surrounding towns in a way that would otherwise be financially unviable.”

Bethany, a reader from Kaiserslautern, said she had replaced at least six long-distance car journeys with public transport in June and July.

“Before, the cost of taking a train wasn’t worth it. But now? I’ll put up with delayed trains for €9,” she said.