When and why do airlines upgrade passengers

Airlines and airports are preparing for the rush of passengers

Easter is the first travel highlight of the year. The aviation industry wants to do a lot better this year than in 2018. But the system is working to its limits.

Frankfurt / Main - In the coming days, things will get serious at German airports. When the Easter holidays begin in all major federal states on the weekend (April 13/14), hundreds of thousands of passengers will be crowding simultaneously at the gates from Thursday. Airlines, authorities and airports have promised that everything should get better this season because last summer's great rush contributed to the considerable chaos in Europe's airspace. However, continuing staff shortages at air traffic control and new problems with aircraft do not lead to any euphoria.

Personnel is increased

At an aviation summit in Hamburg at the end of March, those involved announced concrete measures, but at the same time dampened expectations. “We cannot make everyone happy this summer,” said Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) afterwards, speaking of inevitable “jerks”. According to the German Air Traffic Control (DFS), air traffic in German airspace will also grow this year, by around 4 percent after the record value of 3.4 million flight movements in the chaotic year 2018.

The Airport Association ADV sees its members well prepared: The staff is being increased everywhere, processes are being optimized. The previously cramped passenger and hand luggage controls will also be given more space. In the past few months, the Federal Police has successfully tested new control lanes, which, with simple constructions, can more than double the number of passengers to be checked every hour.

The only catch: With a few exceptions, these new control lanes are not yet available anywhere in Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt. At the largest German airport in Frankfurt, a separate extension is being built for seven new lanes, but this will not be ready until summer at the earliest. Until then, those involved rely on improvements in detail.

Displeasure at the summit

The Frankfurt airport boss Stefan Schulte is sticking to the demand to control the private inspectors, who have been instructed by the federal police, in the future. At the summit, it caused some displeasure that the two reports ordered on this sensitive issue in terms of security law were still not available in Berlin.

With their tight flight schedules, the airlines made a major contribution to delays and flight cancellations last year because they wanted to occupy the largest possible market segments after the bankruptcy of Air Berlin. Lufthansa, its subsidiary Eurowings, Condor and Co. have limited themselves in the current year and are providing significantly more reserve aircraft and crews. The Lufthansa Group alone is spending a quarter of a billion euros on more stable operations, according to Executive Board member Detlef Kayser.

Because of the problems with Boeing's 737 Max breakdown plane, medium-haul aircraft are already a scarce commodity in Europe. After the crash of a Boeing in Ethiopia, numerous countries around the globe, including Germany, issued flight bans for this type. In addition to the low-cost airline Norwegian, the travel group TUI in particular has been hit, which is missing 23 firmly scheduled jets for an uncertain time until the aircraft type is released again. TUI boss Friedrich Joussen has put the additional costs at 200 million euros by mid-July when expiring leasing contracts are extended and new rental contracts are concluded. If the Boeings stay on the ground any longer, it quickly becomes even more expensive.

This is the biggest construction site

The largest construction site by far remains for the time being the federally owned Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, where around 2,000 air traffic controllers work. How many are missing to cope with the coming traffic peaks, especially in the upper airspace, is controversial: DFS boss Klaus-Dieter Scheurle puts the gap at 90 people, while the air traffic control union (GdF) wants at least 200 new colleagues.

Its chairman, Matthias Maas, accuses Scheurle of having cut the training course since he took office in 2013 and of not being determined enough to change direction since the summer crisis. The DFS boss, however, refers to a number of measures that have already been introduced to bundle the flights and organize them more efficiently. Completely trained pilots were also recruited from abroad and the capacity of the company's own training academy was increased. In the short term, however, DFS needs the extra work of its inventory pilots and, in turn, the cooperation of the GdF. An agreement on this is still pending.

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