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Could a NATO air defense drill in Germany spell chaos for travellers this summer?

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Could a NATO air defense drill in Germany spell chaos for travellers this summer?
Passengers queue at BER airport in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Between June 12th and 23rd, NATO is conducting its largest air defence drill yet in Germany - and it could cause issues for holidaymakers. Here's what you need to know, and how travellers could be affected.


​​Anyone planning a holiday or trip in June may have to reckon with some restrictions. NATO members are rehearsing the state of emergency and want to test, among other things, how quickly fighter aircraft can be deployed in the event of a crisis. 

The exercise, called "Air Defender 23", is NATO's largest deployment exercise since its founding and it has implications for travellers and commuters.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Although NATO itself wants to keep the restrictions in the airspace over Germany "as low as possible", Germany’s air force (die Luftwaffe) has already announced that there will be no civilian air traffic in northern, southern and eastern Germany for several hours in June.

Airlines will then have to fly around these areas.

Will flights have to be cancelled?

It cannot be ruled out completely, even though NATO is trying to keep the impact on passengers as low as possible.


However, the air force pointed out that, while direct flight operations to major airports in Germany will not be blocked in general, there may be time delays and flight deviations. 

Lufthansa, Eurowings, Condor, Germania, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Sun Express, Qatar, Austrian and Emirates, among others, are not permitted to take off, land or fly in the vicinity where fighter jets are practising flight manoeuvres.

The trickiest thing for passengers is that NATO hasn't yet released no concrete flight plans during its exercise. Many airports are therefore unable to provide information upon request. 

The exact routes and flight times will be determined within the next week leading up to June. Only then will airlines be able to inform affected travellers about changes.

What do travellers need to know?

As a rule, all travellers are informed in good time about possible flight cancellations and delays.

If a previously booked flight is postponed, you may be entitled to compensation payments under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, so it's worth checking if this applies to you. Package tours are also covered by the regulation so you could be entitled to a refund even if you booked the holiday as part of a deal. 

Flight over Germany

A flight over Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

If you are reimbursed by the airline and organiser for the flight hassle, you have to settle it, according to Stiftung Warentest. For example, if you have received a refund of €80 from the organiser after a cancellation and are still claiming €250 from the airline, the latter would only have to pay out €170.

The EU Passenger Rights Regulation applies to all flights departing within the European Union. For flights landing in the EU, it only applies if the airline is based in one of the EU member states.

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


Which areas are the most affected?

According to current plans of the Luftwaffe, the following areas will be used for exercises between June 12th and 23rd.

  • the eastern training area, including parts of the Baltic Sea and the coastal region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, between 11 am and 1 pm
  • the southern training area - a corridor from the Bavarian Lechfeld to the Baumholder training area (Rhineland-Palatinate) - between 2 pm and 4 pm, and
  • the northern exercise area - mostly located over the North Sea - will be reserved for military use between 5 am and 5 pm

No exercise flights will take place on the weekends. The flight routes are largely identical to the flight corridors already permanently used by the Luftwaffe.


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