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TRAVEL NEWS

Air passengers in Germany face long waits and flight cancellations

Airports and airlines are still struggling with major staff shortages resulting in disruption for passengers travelling in Germany this summer.

Passengers queue at Düsseldorf airport at the weekend.
Passengers queue at Düsseldorf airport at the weekend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

Passengers flying from Cologne/Bonn airport, in North Rhine-Westphalia, faced queues of over two hours to get through security at times over the weekend, the Verdi union reported. There were also long waits at Düsseldorf airport. 

Flight cancellations and delays were reported at both airports. However, a spokesman from Cologne/Bonn airport told broadcaster WDR that things were “running calmly and orderly” and that people were “waiting patiently”.

Some holidaymakers said they arrived at the airport up to eight hours early. This “new phenomenon”  adds to the difficult situation, said a spokesman for the federal police.

Meanwhile, more than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport over the weekend to spare travellers the worst of the chaos. According to airport operator Fraport, this included some last-minute cancellations. 

Despite the cancellations, there were still delays for passengers, especially while checking in and dropping off baggage for flights. 

A spokeswoman for Fraport described the situation on Sunday as “tense”.

Long queues also formed at security control, departure, arrival and baggage claim. There were also delays at the baggage reclaim area. 

The airport, which is Germany’s largest, generally advises travellers to be at the check-in desk at least two and a half hours before departure.

As The Local has been reporting, airports and airlines are dealing with major staff shortages after letting workers go during the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, due to the increase in Covid infections, many staff are having to call in sick to quarantine. 

The German government has stepped in to ease rules to allow private companies to recruit temporary workers from abroad. However, it will take a number of weeks for the workers to be recruited and trained.  

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Fraport reportedly cut around 4,000 jobs during the Covid crisis when government restrictions meant travel was difficult. The company is hoping to fill 1,000 positions this year. The firm also wants to recruit temporary foreign workers this summer.

More than 100 administrative staff are also helping to process passengers, the operator said.

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

Late last week the German Air Transport Association was cautiously optimistic that things would improve soon. 

An association spokeswoman told Tagesschau that normal service should start to resume “from autumn onwards”.

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STRIKES

More than 200 flights cancelled in Germany as Eurowings pilots strike

Flight passengers may face disruption on Thursday after Eurowings pilots staged a full-day walkout in Germany.

More than 200 flights cancelled in Germany as Eurowings pilots strike

A spokesperson for the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union, which represents pilots, told DPA that the industrial action began as planned in the early hours of Thursday morning. VC called for a walkout at the Lufthansa subsidiary after negotiations for better working conditions and wages collapsed. 

As a result of the strike, Eurowings expects about half of all its flights to be cancelled on Thursday, affecting up to 30,000 passengers. 

On average, the Lufthansa subsidiary operates around 500 flights a day, carrying 50,000 to 70,000 passengers to destinations across Germany and Europe.

Eurowings plans to operate on Thursday mainly with aircraft from its Austrian subsidiary Eurowings Europe, which is not on strike, but also with aircraft from partner companies.

A spokesperson for the company told DPA on Wednesday that disruption would vary across different airports.

READ ALSO: Pilots at German low-cost airline Eurowings to strike

Airports such as Mallorca, Stockholm or Prague, which are frequently served by Eurowings Europe, are less affected by the strike.

German destinations, on the other hand, are likely to be much more affected. In Düsseldorf alone, the largest Eurowings location, 118 flights are likely to be cancelled, according to the airport. Just 60 are likely to run.

At Cologne/Bonn airport, 61 of the planned 90 flights were cancelled. The strike action is set to last until midnight on Thursday. 

Eurowings is asking customers to check the status of their flight on the Eurowings website or via the Eurowings app. Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be offered other travel options, such as travelling by train or rebooking. 

Why are pilots striking?

VC’s central demand in the dispute is better working hours and conditions for pilots. The union has argued that current agreements on working hours and rest periods haven’t been updated since 2015, and is calling for the introduction of maximum flight duty times. 

“The workload has increased significantly,” said Matthias Baier, a spokesman for VC. “The employer regularly pushes staff to the maximum permitted limit,” 

Meanwhile, Eurowings has slammed the strike as disproportionate and irresponsible.

Head of personnel Kai Duve called the demands “excessive in times when millions of people are afraid of a cold winter and the next heating bill”, adding that the action could harm the future viability of the flight operations as well as endangering jobs at the airline. 

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if a flight is delayed or cancelled?

Eurowings said it was expecting “largely normal flight operations” to resume on Friday.

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