North Rhine-Westphalia was the first of the 16 German federal states to start the summer holidays this Friday. For around 2.5 million schoolchildren in the most populous country, this means six weeks of vacation – a stress test for airports, trains and motorways.
Already in the morning, for example, there were long queues for luggage check-in and, above all, at the security checkpoints at Düsseldorf Airport. According to their own statements, many vacationers had arrived several hours before the scheduled departure in order to be at the gate in time.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s largest airport is expecting more than 200,000 passengers on the first holiday weekend 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.
At Cologne/Bonn Airport, a queue of one kilometer in length formed at midday in front of the security check. According to information from the “Bild” newspaper, certain groups of people were even allowed to go to the check-in area without unpacking their hand luggage.
Due to a lack of staff, among other things in handling and security checks, the summer holidays are likely to be a stress test for the airports. “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 even estimate the total requirement nationwide at 5,500 workers. The reason: Many former airport and airline employees got other jobs during the corona pandemic, when hardly any planes were taking off.
The aviation industry is therefore hoping for quick exemptions from German authorities for the deployment of around 2,000 workers from Turkey at German airports. “We hope that things will go very quickly,” said a spokeswoman for the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL).
The necessary reliability checks could then be carried out within about six weeks and the employees of ground handling services could still be deployed during the summer travel season.
Because more and more crews are now calling in sick again because of Corona cases, Lufthansa is also canceling more than 2,000 more flights at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs. Together with the cuts already announced, more than 3,000 connections will be lost in July.
The low-cost subsidiary Eurowings also expects further cuts. Strikes at other European airlines are causing additional turbulence.
The holiday airline Condor, on the other hand, sees no reason to change anything in its plans for the summer. “We have not canceled any flights and do not plan to do so,” said a spokeswoman on Friday. The company did not cut any jobs during the pandemic and has had the situation well under control so far.
The German holiday airline Tuifly also sees no reason to reduce its flight program for the summer. “We’re not deleting anything,” said a Tui spokesman.
The company did not record any increased cases of illness due to the corona virus. Tuifly may even launch additional flights on one day or another to compensate for the failures of other airlines, said the spokesman.
According to the industry association DRV, tour operators will do everything to ensure that booked summer trips take place. “It is rather unlikely that well-booked routes to package tour destinations around the Mediterranean or to more distant destinations will be canceled on a larger scale,” said a spokeswoman for the German Travel Association DRV on Friday.
This applies in particular to flights that have been purchased by the organizers long in advance. Tour operators and travel agencies are in close contact with airlines and airports.
But even those who go on holiday by train or car have to be prepared for stress. For the first holiday weekend, it should be tight again on the highways in NRW. The ADAC expects traffic jams and congestion.
Many trains are also likely to be full during the holidays. Numerous travelers will use the 9-euro ticket for holiday travel or day trips. According to Deutsche Bahn, there may be delays and cancellations on some routes due to construction sites.