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Germany’s Lufthansa to hire 20,000 employees as recovery gathers pace

Lufthansa on Monday launched a drive to hire 20,000 employees, as the German airline giant recovers strongly from the coronavirus pandemic and seeks to tackle staffing shortages.

Lufthansa aircrafts in Hamburg.
Lufthansa aircrafts in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The airline made huge losses when the virus brought global air travel to a halt but a rebound in demand has helped it return to profit this year.

Lufthansa said it was seeking the new hires in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium, with roles ranging from pilots and flight attendants to technicians and IT specialists.

A spokesman said some of the roles were being newly created while some were replacements for people who had left.

“In order to be at the forefront of the industry, we need dedicated and  motivated employees for a variety of tasks and challenges,” said personnel chief Michael Niggemann.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Lufthansa said ‘left pandemic behind’ as passenger numbers spike

According to figures published in October, Lufthansa had 108,000 employees at the end of September. It had 138,000 at the end of 2019, prior to the pandemic.

The airline industry in Europe is scrambling to hire new staff to cope with the rebound in demand, after many quit or were let go during the pandemic.

Lufthansa, which cut thousands of staff during the pandemic, faced strike action by pilots and ground staff over the summer, due to worker shortages but also rising inflation.

The airline group subsequently agreed to pay hikes for staff in several different areas.

The major staff shortages – at Lufthansa as well as at airports and several other airlines – contributed to months of chaos for passengers this year when people began to travel more as the pandemic situation eased.

In the third quarter, the airline group — which also includes Eurowings, Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines — reported a healthy profit, and declared it had “left the pandemic behind”.

Lufthansa made huge losses in 2020 and 2021, and had to be bailed out by the German government, but it reported that its finances stabilised earlier than expected.

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TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

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