Fri, 12 Aug 2022

BERLIN, June 27 (Xinhua) -- German airports struggled with rising passenger numbers on Monday as the school holidays kicked off in the country's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).

Cologne/Bonn and Duesseldorf airports reported major issues in handling passengers, with queues of up to 1.8 km long in the terminals. Many flights were canceled on Monday.

The country's largest passenger airport, Frankfurt, is "not yet sufficiently staffed again," operator Fraport said. This is causing longer waiting times in the terminals, and at baggage reclaim during peak hours.

German airlines and airports, like those in other countries, laid off staff after the COVID-19 pandemic almost brought air traffic to a complete standstill. In addition, many other employees took time off sick from work as the country was hit by the Omicron summer wave.

Germany's Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline in terms of passenger numbers, canceled a total of more than 3,000 flights departing from Frankfurt and Munich during the summer months.

The cancellations were due to strikes, weather events and most recently, increased numbers of COVID-19 cases among personnel.

Meanwhile, local media reported that over the weekend, Austrian Airlines canceled almost 100 out of 700 planned flights to and from the capital Vienna after many employees called in sick with COVID-19.

"The entire aviation industry, in particular in Europe, is currently suffering from bottlenecks and staff shortages," a Lufthansa spokesman told Xinhua. Flight cancellations are "an unavoidable measure" to achieve greater schedule stability, he said.

The UK's biggest carrier, easyJet, announced on Monday it was reducing its summer schedule by around 11,000 flights, after caps were introduced on flight numbers by Gatwick airport and Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

This comes as Europe's flight industry is increasingly hit by strike actions among pilots, cabin crew, check-in staff and security personnel. Cabin crew members working for Europe's second largest airline, Ryanair, recently ended extended strikes across Belgium, Portugal, France and Italy.

In order to address staff shortages at German airports, the government plans to "allow urgently needed personnel from abroad to enter the country for temporary work," the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil told Bild newspaper on Sunday.

The country's airports have welcomed the idea. "Anything that helps stabilize the entire air traffic system in the short term is helpful and should be implemented quickly," Ralph Beisel, chief executive of the German Airports Association (ADV), told Xinhua on Monday.

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