Queue at Berlin Airport (on Saturday, October 9th)
Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa
Pictures of long queues in the waiting hall, angry tweets and reports about missed flights: The headlines of the past few days about Berlin-Brandenburg Airport reinforce the image of the breakdown airport.
Lufthansa agrees its customers that the problems could continue for a few more days.
»Due to the current situation at BER, we asked our guests to allow more time than usual at the airport.
As a precaution, we have recommended a lead time of up to 240 minutes for the flights that will take place this week, «announced the airline.
Travelers should also use online and evening check-in as well as the digital pre-check of travel documents.
"We are continuously examining, together with the airport and our service providers, how we can improve the situation in order to be able to offer our customers the service they are accustomed to as quickly as possible," said Lufthansa.
On Twitter, reactions ranged from disbelief to anger and ridicule.
It was pointed out that with a check-in time of four hours within Germany, it would be worthwhile to switch to the train.
Around a year after opening, the new airport in the capital region was already completely overloaded at the weekend.
Angry and frustrated passengers had to wait more than two hours for check-in on Saturday or even missed their machines.
The mobile exit stairs were always missing for arriving planes.
An airport spokesman referred to the start of the holidays in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Accordingly, around 67,000 passengers traveled via BER for the first time in the pandemic on Friday alone.
On Saturday there were 55,000 and on Sunday 66,000 passengers.
However, such figures are still a long way from pre-crisis levels.
The reasons for the chaos were mutual blame.
Lufthansa pointed out that at the beginning of the holiday, the check-in capacities had been increased to the maximum possible number of twelve counters and that additional staff had been deployed.
Check-in is currently particularly time-consuming because, due to the pandemic, most travelers there have to present corona tests or proof of vaccination in order to be able to start their trip.
The Berlin-Brandenburg airport company put the problems at the weekend mainly on staff shortages at the counters that are occupied by the airlines.
Mainly because of sickness reports, the staffing level there was "below the planning".
The ground handling service providers also lacked staff due to illness.
At BER, only one of three passenger terminals is currently open for cost reasons: the main terminal T1.
A short-term opening of Terminal T2, which was completed last year, is currently not planned.
Personnel switched industries during the pandemic
The airport association ADV referred to the shortage of staff, which posed challenges for the entire aviation industry in Germany. "Due to short-time working hours at the airport locations due to the multiple lockdowns, many employees have terminated their employment or are no longer available due to expired contracts," the ADV announced. "New hires for companies with short-time work are mostly not possible." The economic situation of the companies is too tense.
The trade union Ver.di also blames the precarious working conditions of the handlers at the airports for the poor staffing. According to Ver.di aviation expert Mira Neumaier, 16 percent of aviation employees left the industry permanently during the crisis. In the case of the ground handling services, with their hard and low-paid jobs, it was even almost half.
The union demands that what it sees as an artificially created competition between the handlers at the airports, which has led to a "rat race" for the lowest costs and wages, should be turned back.
"The system is broken and has not proven to be crisis-proof," said Neumaier.
Sustainable infrastructure planning must take its place.
Negotiations for a comprehensive industry collective agreement failed abruptly last year under the impact of the corona crisis.
Eurowings takes care of the handling on Mallorca itself
Even at the largest German airport in Frankfurt, there were staff shortages in aircraft handling on main travel days, so that all short-time work in the area was stopped and new people were looked for.
Despite around 150 new hires, only around 5600 people work in the handling department, according to the airport operator Fraport - 2000 fewer than two years ago.
Last weekend, too, with around 130,000 passengers per day in Frankfurt, there was a strong rush, but this did not lead to excessively long waiting times.
"We all had hands on deck," said a Fraport spokesman.
A spokesman for the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings said that in the current season, despite the lower number of passengers compared to the pre-Corona period, problems repeatedly occurred at various airports.
Sometimes it stalled at the security checkpoints, or there was a lack of luggage loaders.
Eurowings has therefore drawn the necessary conclusions at Palma de Mallorca Airport and founded its own handling company with around 250 employees.
mmq / dpa