Who is to blame for the travel chaos at BER?

Schönefeld / Frankfurt (dpa) – travel chaos at BER: Around a year after opening, the new airport in the capital region was completely overloaded for the first time on the weekend.

Angry and frustrated passengers had to go to the Some wait more than two hours for check-in or even missed their machines. The mobile exit stairs were always missing for arriving planes. The reasons, however, affect the entire industry.

At the beginning of the autumn holidays in Berlin and Brandenburg, according to an airport spokesman, traveled around for the first time in the pandemic again 67. 000 Passengers via BER. On Saturday it was therefore 55. 000 and on Sunday 66. 000. Such numbers are still a long way from pre-crisis levels. At this stage there were already too many for the airport.

Question of guilt so far unresolved

All those involved looked to each other to blame for this on Monday. Lufthansa pointed out a lack of handling capacities. The airline opened the maximum possible number of twelve counters at check-in and deployed additional staff in the waiting area, explains a company spokeswoman. 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 on At the weekend, therefore, mainly due to staff shortages at the counters that are occupied by the airlines at BER. Mainly because of sick leave, the number of staff there was “below the plan”. So there were significantly longer waiting times, especially on Saturday, although fewer people were out on the day than on Friday and Sunday. The ground handling service providers also lacked staff due to illness.

Only one of three terminals open

At BER, only one of three passenger terminals is currently open for cost reasons: the main terminal T1. As before, those responsible assume that the capacities there will be sufficient as long as the staffing level is not too thin. A short-term opening of Terminal T2, which was completed last year, is currently not planned.

In fact, it is primarily the lack of staff that poses challenges for the entire aviation industry in Germany. “As a result of short-time working hours at the airport locations due to the repeated lockdown, many employees have terminated their employment or are no longer available due to expired contracts,” states the Airport Association ADV. “New hires for companies with short-time work are mostly not possible.” The economic situation of the companies is too tense.

The service union Verdi sees its worst fears confirmed. “When we restart, we have too few people in all areas,” says Verdi aviation expert Mira Neumaier. She had already warned at the beginning of the summer: During the crisis 16 percent of the aviation employees would have left the industry permanently. In the case of the ground handling services, with their hard and low-paid jobs, it was even almost half. A restart of air traffic will not be affordable even at 50 percent of the pre-crisis level.

«rat race» at the lowest cost and wages

The union is now demanding that what it sees as an artificially created competition between handlers at airports, which has led to a “rat race” for the lowest costs and wages, is now demanded. “The system is broken and has not proven to be crisis-proof,” says Neumaier. Sustainable infrastructure planning must take its place. The negotiations for a comprehensive industry collective agreement failed abruptly last year under the impact of the Corona crisis. In the current season, despite the lower number of passengers compared to the pre-Corona period, problems have repeatedly occurred in various places, says a spokesman for the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings. 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, who have ensured that everything has run smoothly since May.

Even at the largest German airport, Frankfurt, there were personnel bottlenecks in aircraft handling at individual traffic peaks in the summer, so that all short-time work in the area was stopped and new people were looked for. Last weekend there was also a strong rush of around 130. 000 passengers per day, the but did not lead to long waiting times. “We had our hands on deck,” explains a spokesperson for the operator Fraport.

Extra 150 New hires

Despite around 150 According to Fraport, only around 5600 people – 2000 fewer than two years ago are working in the handling department. Only in the years 2025 / 2026 will the old traffic level be reached again and with it the previous workforce. Until then, Fraport will work with temporary workers from other areas and special shifts. At BER, too, the operators do not expect the passenger volume to normalize until 2025. It should therefore remain stressful for travelers and employees at first.

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