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Why are fewer people taking domestic flights in Germany?

The Local Germany
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Why are fewer people taking domestic flights in Germany?
Photo by Leiada Krozjhen on Unsplash

Fewer people in Germany took domestic flights last year than almost any other country within the EU. What's the reason for the decline - and will the number remain this low?

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A full 38 percent fewer domestic flights were registered in Germany in 2022 than in 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic, reported by the air traffic control organisation Eurocontrol in Brussels on Tuesday.

Similar declines were only recorded in fellow EU countries Lithuania (38 percent less) and Finland (35 percent less). 

The only country within Europe to see a greater decrease was Ukraine, where the number of domestic flights fell by 87 percent. Commercial air traffic mostly ceased following Russia’s invasion on February 24th.

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The dip in domestic flights within the EU was caused in part by greater environmental awareness by customers, said Eurocontrol. 

Within Germany, the decline was also due to cheaper and more frequent long-distance train offerings, the organisation added. Not only did the country offer the popular 9 nationwide monthly ticket amid the busy summer travel months, but it also added new long-distance trains to its schedule. 

READ ALSO: Night trains and faster routes: What you need to know about Deutsche Bahn's new timetable

There was in turn more traffic between routes such as Cologne to Berlin, Hamburg or Munich as well as the connection between Frankfurt and Berlin - routes which have also been covered by short-haul domestic flights.

Due to capacity restrictions at Frankfurt and Munich airports, Germany’s two major hubs, airlines also had to free up space - and in many cases cancelled domestic German routes from their schedules.

They also faced staffing challenges, as many airport and airline employees quit their positions amid the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany's largest airline cancels hundreds of summer flights

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Back to normal?

In general, Eurocontrol said they expected domestic flights in Germany to return to pre-crisis levels in 2025, particularly amid already “strong tourist traffic”. 

From 2025 onwards, the controllers estimate air traffic within Europe could see an annual increase of up to four percent. In 2029, between 96 and 116 percent of the aircraft movements from 2019 are likely, they said.

However, if many German politicians have their way, domestic flights will remain at a low level - or even continue to dwindle further.

Germany’s Green Party in particular has long been pushing for “trains instead of planes" when it comes to domestic travel. 

One party proposal aimed to reduce the travel time between as many places as possible in Germany and neighbouring countries to "a maximum of four hours", and to introduce more commuter trains in the morning and evening rush hours.

Last week, Germany’s coalition government voted to inject €45 billion into Deutsche Bahn by 2027, so that passenger trains - notoriously plagued by delays - would run smoother on the country’s most important routes.

Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz said these were "crucial points" needed to achieve growth targets for train travel and improve the currently "unsatisfactory" punctuality of trains.

READ ALSO: From trains to heating: What you need to know about Germany's new 'climate package'

Vocabulary

Domestic flights - (die) Inlandsflüge

Declined - zurückgegangen

Environmental awareness - (das) Umweltbewusstsein

Cancel - streichen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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