German airports to recruit hundreds of emergency staff ‘in August’

The flight chaos at German airports could ease up slightly this month as hundreds of new recruits are expected to arrive in the country by mid-August.

Frankfurt Airport
Passengers wait for their flight next to a pile of luggage at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Speaking to RND on Wednesday, Thomas Richter, the chairman of the ground handing service providers’ association, said it was “realistic” that at least 250 new staff from abroad would take up roles at German airports this month.

The recruits are in the “final stages” of compiling their documents, he said. 

It is hoped that the arrival of new workers could help to ease the pressure on current airport staff over the peak travel period.

As part of cost-cutting measures during the pandemic, transport hubs like Frankfurt Airport sacked thousands of staff in areas like security and baggage handling, leading to severe staff shortages and ongoing logistical problems this summer.

READ ALSO: Why is flying in Germany so expensive and chaotic right now?

The new employees are likely to be stationed at Munich, Frankfurt and Nuremburg airports, where thousands of flights have been cancelled in recent weeks due to staff shortages.

It comes after the government announced it would be creating routes for temporary workers from third countries to work in German airports during the summer months. 

The new workers, which are mostly being recruited from Turkey, are required to work at the airports for a set period of time and must be paid a fair wage.

However, employers at airports have complained that the obligatory background check is delaying the recruitment of desperately needed staff.

The CEO of the airport association, Ralph Beisel, told RND that the process could be made “significantly easier” through a more efficient background check on new recruits, “without sacrificing safety standards”.

Wage disputes continue

Even with the arrival of 250 additional staff at German airports, it’s unclear if the travel mayhem of the last few months will be resolved.

The German Air Transport Association predicts that around 2,000 extra workers are needed over summer, meaning that the new recruits will represent just 10 percent of what is required.

Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa also continues to be embroiled in an industrial dispute with the union representing its ground crew staff, who are demanding a pay rise of 9.5 percent or at least €350 per month.

Last Wednesday, more than 1,000 flights were cancelled due to strikes in Frankfurt and Munich, affected around 134,000 passengers.

This Wednesday, representatives of Lufthansa and the service workers’ union Verdi will meet for the third round of negotiations. If no agreement is reached, further strikes could be on the horizon.

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

There are also threats of strikes from the Vereinigung Cockpit union, which represents German pilots. 

Last week, the members of the union voted by a large majority in favour of industrial action, paving the way for immediate strikes.

So far, however, no fixed date has been set for a walkout of the some 5,000 pilots at Lufthansa. 

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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”.