The start of the holiday season in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia should give a foretaste of what many holidaymakers can expect this summer. Long queues at the airport and a lot of uncertainty.
The start of a holiday is usually associated with stress. But this year is likely to be particularly bad for millions of travelers.
If you want to go on holiday by plane, you have to expect hours of waiting at check-in and at security checks due to the lack of staff at the airports. The risk of the booked flight being canceled is also greater than usual. The start of the holidays in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia next weekend should give a first taste of what is threatening nationwide.
Lots of passengers
Then the rush of passengers who finally want to travel the world again after the corona restrictions could push the airports in NRW to their limits. North Rhine-Westphalia’s largest airport, Düsseldorf, expects more than 200,000 passengers from Friday to Sunday alone – a total of three million passengers during the holidays. In the busiest times, almost as many passengers would be handled as before the corona pandemic, airport boss Thomas Schnalke reported this week. Cologne/Bonn Airport is expecting 1.75 million travelers during the holidays, which corresponds to around 86 percent of the pre-crisis level.
Too few airport employees
The problem with this is that airports everywhere lack the employees to smoothly cope with the onslaught of holidaymakers. From passenger control to aircraft handling to flight attendants, there is a shortage of staff everywhere. Because many former airport and airline employees got other jobs during the pandemic, when hardly any planes were taking off.
“According to information from the aviation industry, around 2,000 employees are currently missing in all areas,” the Federal Ministry of Transport recently reported. The airport works councils estimate the total requirement nationwide at 5,500 workers. And a quick remedy is hardly possible – also because new employees in the security area of the airport have to undergo a complex background check.
What airports are doing about bottlenecks
Everyone involved is trying to limit the damage. Cologne Bonn Airport, for example, has hired additional people for handling. In order to shorten the long queues at Düsseldorf Airport, the federal police have announced reinforcements for the security checks. A second service provider has been found who will take over three additional control lanes in time for the start of the holiday on Friday, said federal police spokesman Jens Flören. “We hope that this will help to even out the situation – especially at peak times.” And the airport operator Fraport in Frankfurt even wants to use employees from administration to the board of directors in view of the staff shortages.
But long queues on the main travel days will hardly be able to prevent all of this. Düsseldorf airport boss Schnalke has already warned that he fears “that the journeys of numerous passengers will begin or end with irregularities, delays and long queues”.
Flight cancellations are piling up
But the problems at the airports are not the only thing that can currently spoil the start of the holiday for holidaymakers in need of relaxation. In the days before the start of the holidays, of all days, the flight cancellations at the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings at the two largest North Rhine-Westphalia airports, Düsseldorf and Cologne, piled up. One reason for this is an unexpectedly high level of sick leave, said a company spokeswoman. Eurowings was also not spared from the current increase in corona infections. At the beginning of June, Eurowings and its parent company Lufthansa canceled 900 flights for July due to a lack of staff.
Tips for travelers
In view of the expected delays in handling, the ADV airport association advises air travelers to be at the airport at least two and a half hours before departure, if possible to check in the evening before and to travel with as little hand luggage as possible. The aviation expert Özay Tarim from the Verdi trade union gives holidaymakers little hope of a quick improvement: “Queues have become the norm at airports even before the start of the holidays. Now it can only be about damage limitation.”
© dpa-infocom, dpa:220623-99-771478/2