FRANKFURT – Will the aerial chaos continue unchanged? Germany’s biggest airport in Frankfurt still has its real test ahead of it. Already on the last school day before the summer holidays in three federal states, there will be more activity on Friday than at any time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic in March 2020. The airport and the airlines have already cut the program.
How many passengers are expected?
With the start of the holidays in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, the annual passenger number records will almost certainly fall. Fraport expects around 200,000 passengers per day over the weekend of July 22-24. There weren’t many this year with a previous record of 180,000 vouchers. However, we are still far from the historic record of 241,228 passengers in June 2019. Up to 1,200 planes with 285 destinations take off and land in Frankfurt every day.
What are the biggest problems?
At the hub, there is a lack of staff in the ground handling services. This is more serious than the staff shortages that also exist in canteen kitchens, as planes have to be refueled, cleaned, loaded and unloaded. Staff are also scarce at check-in and on the planes themselves. There are also disruptions in the process due to planes being delayed elsewhere. As a result, suitcases are often lying around in Frankfurt while their owners have still taken the connecting flight. A few days ago, there were already 5,000 suitcases in the halls that had to be transported. Arriving passengers often have to wait hours for their luggage, as outgoing luggage is loaded first.
What are the causes ?
Basically, airlines and airports have completely underestimated the number of people who want to travel again after the Corona lull. The airport association ADV claims that around 20% of staff are missing. “Every forecast has clearly been exceeded and many more people are flying than expected. Airports and airlines have too few staff at all levels for this,” Fraport boss Stefan Schulte told “Mannheimer Morgen”. . In the end, the handling problems in the various airports of Europe and the USA are reinforced because the flight schedules become entangled and the luggage gets stuck. Airspace closures due to the war in Ukraine and technical changes in French air traffic control have also massively weakened European airspace, so fewer planes can be flown.
What are the airport and the airlines doing?
In Frankfurt, the flight plan was refined in advance. Fraport wants to cap peak loads and therefore only manage a maximum of 88 take-offs and landings per hour. A few weeks ago, 106 flight movements per hour were still possible. According to Fraport spokesman Jürgen Harrer, operations have already stabilized and the mountain of suitcases has been reduced to around 2,000 bags. Lufthansa alone has canceled nearly 6,000 flights to Frankfurt and Munich so far, but Fraport wants to force other carriers to cancel individual flights or at least reschedule them to lower times. However, this quickly reaches its limits, as the Lufthansa Group is responsible for around 80% of all flights in Frankfurt. The other most important customers are then Condor and Star Alliance partners such as United and Air Canada.
What does the security check look like?
There should be no queues of several hundred meters in Frankfurt, as there are currently at Cologne/Bonn airport. According to the Federal Police, the service providers responsible for this have almost as many staff on board as before the Corona crisis. Despite increased sick leave, incentives and the use of additional administration staff will help cope with the rush, federal police spokesman Reza Ahmari said.
Technically, however, Germany’s largest airport is not up to date: only two of the 160 security lanes are equipped with baggage scanners of the latest CT design, which allow liquids and electronic objects to remain in the baggage by hand. In this way, a significantly higher number of checks per hour is achieved. Fraport intends to make massive investments in this area from next year when the airport operator will manage the operational use of the controls. There are also faster processes at the 30 screening lanes, where multiple passengers can drop off their hand luggage at the same time.
Can it get worse?
Definitely yes. Even though the summer of travel has long entered the second half, the risks are growing. Airlines and airports only expect normalization in the coming year. Anyway, September is traditionally the month with the most travel at Frankfurt Airport, so further peaks in attendance cannot be ruled out. The corona pandemic will continue to cause high levels of sick leave, as well as overstretch the remaining forces. The current heat does the rest, because there is no shadow on the concrete deck.
In addition, things are fermenting within the workforce of Lufthansa. Two rounds of collective bargaining with Verdi have already yielded no results for ground staff. Pilots and cabin crew are groaning under the short-term planning of their missions and even tighter staffing levels with Corona. The planners acted on the maxim “we have to get the planes out of the yard somehow”, complains the cabin union Ufo. Like the Cockpit Union, it negotiates open collective agreements. In principle, the company’s three unions can strike.
What can passengers do themselves?
Fraport asks customers to check in at least two and a half hours before departure. Ideally, you have already done this electronically and only have to hand over your suitcase, for which the machines are increasingly available. This can often be done the night before. The federal police then recommends going quickly to the passenger checkpoint, for which it takes up to an hour to wait instead of the usual 20 minutes. There are also waiting areas and expensive snacks and drinks in the security area.
Hand luggage is a tricky subject. Given the uncertainties associated with checked baggage, passengers currently tend to take as much as possible into the cabin. Less would be more for a quick checkout process, but liquids and electronics should at least be pre-sorted, the federal police advise.
© Christian Ebner, dpa | Fig. : Fraport AG (symbolic image) | 20/07/2022 05:40