Airport chaos in Germany: The start of the summer holidays finally heralds the start of chaos at the airports. Lufthansa has to cancel massive flights. There are also massive problems in other countries. London Heathrow Airport is responding with drastic measures. All important information in the news ticker.
Wednesday, July 13, 2:24 p.m .: Due to the current handling problems, Lufthansa is canceling further flights. A company spokesman said on Wednesday in Frankfurt that around 2,000 connections at the Frankfurt and Munich hubs would be affected by the end of August. It has been seen in the past week that the remaining flight plan can be stabilized with targeted cancellations. This has now been analyzed and implemented for the next few weeks.
It is already the third wave of Lufthansa flight cancellations this summer. The airline initially canceled a good 3,000 flights for the months of July and August and then canceled 770 further connections for the week up to and including Thursday (July 14). Now there are another 2000 cancellations for a period of six weeks.
Above all, the traffic peaks in the morning and in the evening should be relieved, the spokesman explained. At these times, the ground handling services at the hubs are overloaded, so that machines have to wait and luggage is left behind. The spokesman explained that short connections to destinations within Germany or nearby countries, for which there are good alternatives, would be canceled in particular. Flights to specific holiday destinations would only be canceled in exceptional cases.
For Frankfurt, Germany’s largest airport, the expected peak loads for the summer have not yet been reached. The operator Fraport, the federal police and the main customer Lufthansa are expecting a particularly high rush for the weekend from July 22nd to 24th, because that is when the school holidays in Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate begin.
Tuesday, July 12, 4:58 p.m.: London’s Heathrow Airport has introduced a limit on the number of departing passengers for the summer months. As Managing Director John Holland-Kaye announced in an open letter on Tuesday, an upper limit of 100,000 passengers per day should apply from now until September 11th. He called on airlines to stop selling tickets for this period.
According to Holland-Kaye, there are some crucial functions at the airport that are understaffed, particularly ground handling. For example, the companies in question lack employees at check-in or baggage handling.
“With regularly more than 100,000 passengers a day on departures, we have had phases in which the service slipped below an acceptable level,” wrote the Heathrow boss. These included long waits, delays for vulnerable passengers, lost luggage, delays and last-minute flight cancellations.
There have been serious problems at British airports for weeks. The reason is usually a lack of staff – because of the corona pandemic, employees had been laid off, and now a number of jobs are missing. In addition, employees are repeatedly absent at short notice due to infections. There are also technical problems. Heathrow Airport ordered airlines to cancel dozens of flights due to congestion on Monday.
Sunday, July 10th, 12:08 p.m.: Because a flight to the Albanian capital Tirana was overbooked, there were tumultuous scenes of rejected passengers at Friedrichshafen Airport (Bodenseekreis). According to the police on Sunday, 39 people could not be boarded on the flight of the low-cost airline Wizz Air due to internal rebookings of the company.
The rejected vacationers let their frustration run wild on Friday and refused to leave the waiting room. Eventually, customs and police officers had to calm the crowd. According to the police spokesman, there was no replacement plane. The people, some of whom had travel times of several hours, had to leave the airport.
7.13 p.m .: Even on the third holiday weekend, vacationers at the airports in North Rhine-Westphalia had to put up with long waiting times. As early as Friday morning, long queues formed at the security checkpoints at Cologne/Bonn Airport, stretching all the way to the outside of the airport building. Passengers were also backed up in Düsseldorf on Friday.
A spokesman for Düsseldorf Airport said that longer waiting times can still be expected on Saturday and Sunday due to the lack of staff.
In order to be on the plane in time, many holidaymakers said they had come to the airport up to eight hours earlier on Friday. This “new phenomenon” makes the situation even more confusing, said a spokesman for the federal police. Passengers should also ensure that they only have permitted items in their hand luggage.
“You can’t blame the passengers if you didn’t hire staff in time,” said Verdi union secretary Özay Tarim on Friday. Vacationers were called on to come to the airports earlier. He expects this Saturday “Bed change” again long queues. The situation is also stressful for the employees. The sick leave is currently around 20 percent among the security staff, according to Tarim.
Düsseldorf Airport is expecting around 179,000 passengers for the third holiday weekend. Cologne/Bonn Airport expects around 108,000 passengers.
Friday, July 8, 8:40 a.m.: The second day of the summer holidays in Berlin and Brandenburg started relatively quietly at the capital’s BER airport. However, both terminals are full, said an airport spokeswoman on Friday morning. Six flights for Friday were canceled at short notice, including two in the morning hours. However, it was about connections within Germany, for example to Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart. Around 500 starts are planned for the entire day, said the spokeswoman. “It’s a normal vacation day.”
The largest number of passengers of the summer holidays is expected for Friday. The operators expected 80,000 passengers for the first time. The spokeswoman said there were already around 75,000 passengers at the start of the holiday on Thursday. The morning on Friday was not noticeably different than the day before.
“There may be queues at certain points,” admitted the spokeswoman. “Our BER team is on the road and helps and speaks to people, for example at the self-service machines when checking in and then supports them.”
The airport company recommends being at the terminal two and a half hours before departure and going to security immediately after check-in.
4:25 p.m .: Lufthansa will cancel even more flights in the short term than previously known. According to information from ntv, in addition to the flights that have already been canceled, a further 19 percent of the flight volume is to be cancelled. Mainly connections within Germany and close to the border are affected. The reduction in the offer affects the period from tomorrow Friday to next Thursday. The airline wants to use this to stabilize the flight schedule and provide customers with more planning security.
According to information from ntv, more than 20,000 pieces of luggage are stored at Frankfurt Airport alone – but not only from Lufthansa passengers. They mostly belong to travelers to whom it should be sent after their departure on vacation because it could not be loaded onto the appropriate plane in time.
In some cases, the delays were so great that many of those affected have already returned from vacation. The holiday addresses are on many suitcases – the home addresses can only be determined with difficulty.
Thursday, July 7, 9:40 a.m.: To solve the handling problems, the larger German airport locations have announced their need for foreign temporary workers. Inquiries were received from airport operators and private ground handling service providers, said the general manager of the airport association ADV, Ralph Beisel, on Thursday in Berlin. He could not give figures for individual locations.
Overall, the association had announced a need for around 2,000 temporary workers. They should come mainly from Turkey and be employed according to German collective bargaining conditions. After negotiations with the federal government, no check is made as to whether German workers are available for the jobs. Safety checks by the state authorities remain in place.
The enlistment is intended to alleviate the staffing issues that have led to numerous delays and complaints from disgruntled passengers. Frankfurt Airport expects the people to be deployed in September.
6:21 p.m .: Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil has criticized the working conditions of flight personnel, which leads to chaos at European airports Heil today to RTL / ntv. Heil complains that many airlines laid off too many employees during the corona crisis, including with severance pay. “Now we have the salad,” said the SPD minister.
In order to alleviate the shortage of personnel, the aviation industry is allowed to employ temporary workers from abroad. In addition, Heil has instructed the job centers and employment agencies at the locations to help “so that people can be found from the army of unemployed people.”
11:53 a.m .: Lufthansa staff representatives have heavily criticized the board’s crisis management. “Instead of seeing the crisis in the entire aviation industry as an opportunity to join forces to find a common path through the pandemic, the Group’s Executive Board obviously saw it as an opportunity to reduce long-term collective bargaining and operational (cost) structures,” says a letter to the members of the Supervisory Board, which is meeting on Wednesday.
The analysis of the situation by the staff representatives is devastating. Lufthansa is gambling away its good reputation and losing long-standing guests, according to the letter available to dpa. In many areas there is a lack of staff, the colleagues are at the physical and mental stress limit. The employee representatives accuse the board of management of not having changed course quickly enough. “The threats of dismissal were held on for far too long in order to achieve the desired concessions after all, and as a result moved away from them far too late.”
The employees are also pessimistic about the recruitment of new employees: “The working conditions in many areas are such that we lack applicants. In some companies, remuneration starts below the upcoming minimum wage requirements.” The signatories from many parts of the company called on the supervisory boards to work towards constructive and positive personnel management.
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