When it comes to their vacation, the Germans are willing to make sacrifices. Neither the rising inflation nor the warnings from the Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) about the contagious corona variant BA.5 prevent people from boarding the plane. And even the chaos at the airports endure the vacationers in the hope of later recovery.
The beginning of the holiday season in North Rhine-Westphalia at the weekend provided a foretaste. Hours of queues, stressed passengers and firefighters who had to help unload luggage to prevent worse. It’s Berlin’s turn in just under two weeks. And many are afraid that the chaos at BER will repeat itself.
You just want to go on vacation. The most popular destinations for Germans this summer are the pre-Corona classics Spain with Mallorca and the Canary Islands, Turkey and Greece, says Torsten Schäfer from the German Travel Association (DRV). But there is also strong demand for Egypt, and “long-distance travel is also making a comeback,” reports Schäfer. After two Corona summers on the Müritz or on the Baltic Sea, many want to go back to the sunny beaches. Aperol instead of apple juice.
“Neither inflation nor the flight chaos stop people from booking their summer holidays,” confirms Marija Linnhoff, head of the Federal Association of Independent Travel Agencies (VUSR). “After two years of Corona, people just want to get out.”
The tour operators are happy about that. “We don’t see any uncertainty among the customers – on the contrary,” reports Ingo Burmester, head of DER Touristik Central Europe (ITS, Jahn Reisen, DER Tour). At the Rewe tourism subsidiary, the sales figures in the current summer season already exceed the pre-crisis level. “So you can say that the desire for vacation exceeds the possible frustration of flying,” Burmester told the Tagesspiegel. Industry-wide, the booking status for this summer is still 23 percent down compared to the pre-Corona summer of 2019. No savings are made on vacation, even if the guilty conscience is felt in view of the inflation that is eating away at the household budget. According to a study by the consulting firm PWC, three out of four people want to cut back on their travels in the future. According to a recent survey by the opinion research institute Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the Europ Assistance Group, 63 percent of Germans say that inflation has an impact on their travel planning.
But in reality you don’t notice that much. “One week all-inclusive, for two adults and two children, that starts at 2000 euros,” the Germany boss of the Tui travel group, Stefan Baumert, recently calculated in the Tagesspiegel. But most customers would book four-star hotels in Spain or Turkey for 2,500 to 3,500 euros a week. “For the majority of our guests, the holiday is the biggest investment of the year,” says the travel manager. You treat yourself. “Many stay longer, book better rooms or hotels with more stars,” reports Tui spokesman Aage Dünhaupt.
However, it is doubtful whether this trend will continue for long. Because with inflation of eight percent, the purse is noticeably emptier. And if you have money on the high edge, you can practically watch the savings melt away. Wouldn’t it be better to save than throw thousands of euros out the window for a family holiday on Crete? “Many say that this might be the last time,” says tourism expert Linnhoff. “Because if energy gets even more expensive and the additional payments come, many people won’t have any money left for vacation.” Is summer 2022 perhaps already the beginning of the end?
In addition to the lack of money, there is growing annoyance with flying. Easyjet announced last week that it would cancel further flights – beyond the 1000 connections that were canceled at BER alone from June to August. Lufthansa has “taken out of the system” more than 3,000 domestic German and intra-European flights at the Frankfurt and Munich hubs for the summer holiday season, as a spokesman says. At the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, there are hundreds of other flights that will not take place as planned in July.
It’s an annoying interplay of various staff shortages that’s making flying a gamble this summer. The airlines lack staff, but there are also long waiting times at the security checks and baggage carousels at the airports.
According to the airport association ADV, around 20 percent of the positions at German airports are vacant. In Europe, 600,000 jobs were lost in aviation due to the Corona crisis. Ground services have been hit hardest, says industry association Air Transport Action Group. Many workers have sought alternatives to jobs that involve shift work and physical hard work, such as baggage handling. Now Turkish temporary workers are supposed to end the mess.
“The flight chaos comes as no surprise,” says Marija Linnhoff. “The airlines already saw in November that people wanted to book and fly. But they haven’t built up enough capacity. That is criminal,” says the tourism expert. Linnhoff is considered a rebel in the travel industry who doesn’t shy away from clear words. That’s no wonder, because travel agencies often have to iron out the glitches of others. Linnhoff does not believe in coincidences. “The airline managers sell flights that they should know will not take place,” says the head of the association. “They assume that many people will become weary and forego their compensation if the airlines only stall them long enough.” Actually, the airlines have to pay for canceled flights within seven days. But some customers are still waiting for their compensation from the corona pandemic.
Linnhoff sees Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) as having a duty to reduce the long queues at the security barrier. Security clearance is actually the task of the Federal Police, which has delegated this work to private individuals. “If the private controls don’t work, the federal police have to take over these tasks again,” demands Linnhoff.
Package travelers, unlike pure air passengers, do not have to bother with finding a replacement for canceled flights. The tour operator takes care of that for you. In addition, the travel companies like to book seats in charter planes that are less prone to cancellations than scheduled flights, or, as in the case of Tui, in their own Tuifly planes. Incidentally, in most cases package holidaymakers do not have to worry about having to pay surcharges because of the higher kerosene costs. Such a subsequent price increase would have to be stipulated in the general terms and conditions. “Most tour operators in Germany have deleted this clause,” says DRV spokesman Schäfer.
The situation is different for new offers: if tour operators launch new trips and buy hotel and flight contingents, prices could rise. Tui spokesman Dünhaupt warns that the contingents bought last year at comparatively low prices will soon expire. “Inflation due to increased energy costs and food prices will not stop at travel – this development will also have an impact on travel in the future,” says Torsten Schäfer.