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‘Horrible queues’: What Frankfurt airport is really like this summer

A recent survey placed two German airports among the worst in the world this summer for delayed flights. The Local readers told us Frankfurt airport is particularly bad.

Lots of people in Frankfurt airport in July.
Lots of people in Frankfurt airport in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

It’s well known that flying can be a nightmare at the moment, whether there are delays, cancellations, long queues or lost luggage. 

According to a recent ranking by FlightAware, Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt saw 45.4 percent of its flights delayed between May 26th and July 19th, while Munich airport had 40.4 percent of flights disrupted. 

We decided to ask The Local readers what their experience of flying to or from these airports has been this summer. 

Around 30 people answered our survey last week – and of those, just over 32 percent said their flight from one of these two German airports had been cancelled. Meanwhile, 60.7 percent of those surveyed said their flight was delayed. 

Missed connections

Frankfurt airport, which is airline giant Lufthansa’s main base, seemed to be the travel hub where people had experienced the most problems. 

The airline has struggled with staff shortages after cutting back its workforce during the pandemic travel restrictions. Around 6,000 flights have been cancelled from Frankfurt this summer. Lufthansa ground crew staff also recently held a strike over pay and conditions. 

Adding to the problem is that many people are off sick in Germany at the moment due to a high number of Covid infections.  

READ ALSO: Why is flying in Germany so expensive and chaotic right now?

Alison Townsend, 49, said: “No problems at Munich but major problems outwards at Frankfurt. Only a 30 minute delay but then hit the 45 minute non-EU passport queue and ridiculous distance between gates.

“I missed my connection so missed boarding my cruise in Athens and had a five-day catch-up to board it after with high hotel costs and expenses. Staffing levels were ok but lines for border control were too long.”

However, Townsend said both airports were “very good in terms of seating and shops plus food outlets”.

Craig, 68, who flew to and from Frankfurt, said: “It was chaos and clueless. No Lufthansa desks were open. And it was the third flight of my scheduled trip to be cancelled.”

Queues at Frankfurt airport in July.

Queues at Frankfurt airport in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Nicolas, 37, flew to Marseille from Frankfurt, and said there were no staff there to tell passengers about their cancelled flight. 

“You feel very lonely in the big airport,” he said. “No one knew the right answer. I travel a lot around the world and I never felt that before.”

Another reader called Anna, 33, said she was put off from flying with Lufthansa after having her travel plans wrecked during recent strike action. Her outbound flight was delayed by 2.5 hours “and I missed the connecting flight”.

“Due to the strike I was left all alone in Munich with a toddler,” she said.

Tom Boon said he experienced lots of problems when flying with Lufthansa from or to Frankfurt. He said his return Lufthansa flight from London was “almost an hour late due to the aircraft not leaving Frankfurt on time to come to collect us in London City”.

Long queues at immigration

Lots of respondents mentioned the issue of waiting in line when arriving at Frankfurt airport. 

Balakrishnan, 41, who flew to Frankfurt from Abu Dhabi in July, said there were problems getting through passport control: “We waited nearly two hours in a long queue to clear immigration.

“Though the queue was too much, only two counters with four immigration officers were opened for non-EU passport holders.”

Paul, 52, flew to Frankfurt Airport at the end of July. He said: “Horrible queues for passport control, two people were there at 7.30am and there were queues of at least 200 people, stretching out of sight down the corridor.”

Source: Statista

Will the problems continue?

At the weekend, Lufthansa board member Christina Foerster told newspapers in the Funke Media group that flight operations were now “stabilised”.

“The low point has passed,” she said. However, Foerster said there were still major issues with staff having to take sick leave. 

Last week it also emerged that hundreds of new temporary employees from abroad, likely to be stationed at Munich, Frankfurt and Nuremberg airports, are set to join teams on the ground later this month. 

READ ALSO: German airports to recruit hundreds of emergency staff ‘in August’

And some readers said it’s not all that bad – even with the current staff shortages. 

Rebecca, 70, flew to Frankfurt airport on July 28th. 

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She said: “Flight arrived early. There was no line at passport control. Baggage arrived on the belt within 30 minutes. Shuttle to Terminal 1 was punctual.”

Steven, 35, said: “Munich had no issues at all, the airport was practically empty around 3pm. No baggage delays, customs did take a few minutes longer than usual. No other problems at all.”

Meanwhile, one reader said his worst experience was actually flying from another German airport – Cologne/Bonn. 

Angad, 28, said: “Security lines that were kilometres long and more than a two hour delayed flight. Fast track security that we paid for did not exist. Horrible, horrible experience.”

Tips and advice

We also asked readers for their suggestions on travelling at the moment. Here’s a summary of what they said:

  • Put a tracking device like an AirTag in checked baggage or only bring hand luggage 
  • Arrive earlier than usual for your flight, and be mindful of leaving time for connecting flights 
  • Wear trainers or comfortable shoes for getting through big airports quickly 
  • Lower your expectations 

Nick, 56, said: “Remain calm, other airports in the world are also going through the same issues.”

Another reader, Fiona, 54, said: “Don’t travel unless you really need to.”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out our survey. Although we can’t include all the responses, we do read all of them and really appreciate you taking the time to share your views with us.

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STRIKES

More than 200 flights cancelled in Germany as Eurowings pilots strike

Flight passengers may face disruption on Thursday after Eurowings pilots staged a full-day walkout in Germany.

More than 200 flights cancelled in Germany as Eurowings pilots strike

A spokesperson for the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union, which represents pilots, told DPA that the industrial action began as planned in the early hours of Thursday morning. VC called for a walkout at the Lufthansa subsidiary after negotiations for better working conditions and wages collapsed. 

As a result of the strike, Eurowings expects about half of all its flights to be cancelled on Thursday, affecting up to 30,000 passengers. 

On average, the Lufthansa subsidiary operates around 500 flights a day, carrying 50,000 to 70,000 passengers to destinations across Germany and Europe.

Eurowings plans to operate on Thursday mainly with aircraft from its Austrian subsidiary Eurowings Europe, which is not on strike, but also with aircraft from partner companies.

A spokesperson for the company told DPA on Wednesday that disruption would vary across different airports.

READ ALSO: Pilots at German low-cost airline Eurowings to strike

Airports such as Mallorca, Stockholm or Prague, which are frequently served by Eurowings Europe, are less affected by the strike.

German destinations, on the other hand, are likely to be much more affected. In Düsseldorf alone, the largest Eurowings location, 118 flights are likely to be cancelled, according to the airport. Just 60 are likely to run.

At Cologne/Bonn airport, 61 of the planned 90 flights were cancelled. The strike action is set to last until midnight on Thursday. 

Eurowings is asking customers to check the status of their flight on the Eurowings website or via the Eurowings app. Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be offered other travel options, such as travelling by train or rebooking. 

Why are pilots striking?

VC’s central demand in the dispute is better working hours and conditions for pilots. The union has argued that current agreements on working hours and rest periods haven’t been updated since 2015, and is calling for the introduction of maximum flight duty times. 

“The workload has increased significantly,” said Matthias Baier, a spokesman for VC. “The employer regularly pushes staff to the maximum permitted limit,” 

Meanwhile, Eurowings has slammed the strike as disproportionate and irresponsible.

Head of personnel Kai Duve called the demands “excessive in times when millions of people are afraid of a cold winter and the next heating bill”, adding that the action could harm the future viability of the flight operations as well as endangering jobs at the airline. 

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if a flight is delayed or cancelled?

Eurowings said it was expecting “largely normal flight operations” to resume on Friday.

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