For members


Could a NATO air defense drill in Germany spell chaos for travellers this summer?

Between June 12th and 23rd, NATO is conducting its largest air defence drill yet in Germany - and it could cause issues for holidaymakers. Here's what you need to know, and how travellers could be affected.

Passengers queue at BER airport in Berlin.
Passengers queue at BER airport in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

​​Anyone planning a holiday or trip in June may have to reckon with some restrictions. NATO members are rehearsing the state of emergency and want to test, among other things, how quickly fighter aircraft can be deployed in the event of a crisis. 

The exercise, called “Air Defender 23”, is NATO’s largest deployment exercise since its founding and it has implications for travellers and commuters.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Although NATO itself wants to keep the restrictions in the airspace over Germany “as low as possible”, Germany’s air force (die Luftwaffe) has already announced that there will be no civilian air traffic in northern, southern and eastern Germany for several hours in June.

Airlines will then have to fly around these areas.

Will flights have to be cancelled?

It cannot be ruled out completely, even though NATO is trying to keep the impact on passengers as low as possible.

However, the air force pointed out that, while direct flight operations to major airports in Germany will not be blocked in general, there may be time delays and flight deviations. 

Lufthansa, Eurowings, Condor, Germania, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Sun Express, Qatar, Austrian and Emirates, among others, are not permitted to take off, land or fly in the vicinity where fighter jets are practising flight manoeuvres.

The trickiest thing for passengers is that NATO hasn’t yet released no concrete flight plans during its exercise. Many airports are therefore unable to provide information upon request. 

The exact routes and flight times will be determined within the next week leading up to June. Only then will airlines be able to inform affected travellers about changes.

What do travellers need to know?

As a rule, all travellers are informed in good time about possible flight cancellations and delays.

If a previously booked flight is postponed, you may be entitled to compensation payments under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, so it’s worth checking if this applies to you. Package tours are also covered by the regulation so you could be entitled to a refund even if you booked the holiday as part of a deal. 

Flight over Germany

A flight over Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

If you are reimbursed by the airline and organiser for the flight hassle, you have to settle it, according to Stiftung Warentest. For example, if you have received a refund of €80 from the organiser after a cancellation and are still claiming €250 from the airline, the latter would only have to pay out €170.

The EU Passenger Rights Regulation applies to all flights departing within the European Union. For flights landing in the EU, it only applies if the airline is based in one of the EU member states.

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

Which areas are the most affected?

According to current plans of the Luftwaffe, the following areas will be used for exercises between June 12th and 23rd.

  • the eastern training area, including parts of the Baltic Sea and the coastal region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, between 11 am and 1 pm
  • the southern training area – a corridor from the Bavarian Lechfeld to the Baumholder training area (Rhineland-Palatinate) – between 2 pm and 4 pm, and
  • the northern exercise area – mostly located over the North Sea – will be reserved for military use between 5pm and 17pm

No exercise flights will take place on the weekends. The flight routes are largely identical to the flight corridors already permanently used by the Luftwaffe.

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For members


Why could Germany’s €49 ticket threaten semester tickets for students?

A recent legal opinion suggests that Germany's €49 monthly ticket deal could jeopordise the future of the 'Semesterticket'.

Why could Germany’s €49 ticket threaten semester tickets for students?

Around three million students in Germany have a semester ticket – a special tariff which enables them to use local public transport at a fixed, low cost for a six-month period. The ticket operates on a so-called solidarity model, which means that all students are required to purchase it, regardless of whether they want to use it or not. 

Although the Semesterticket was considered a significant social achievement when it was first introduced in 1991, it has faced criticism and legal challenges over the years. Until now, these have been unsuccessful.

But the Deutschlandticket, which allows holders to use nationwide public transport for €49 per month, could pose a threat to the semester ticket model.

Why does the Deutschlandticket pose a problem for the Semesterticket?

A recent legal opinion commissioned by the Student Union (AStA) from the Technical University of Dortmund found that future lawsuits against the semester ticket model could be successful, because, in many cases, it is no longer significantly cheaper than other available transport options. 

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most (and least) from Germany’s new €49 ticket?

The opinion refers to an argument made by the Federal Administrative Court in an earlier legal case, which said that a solidarity model ticket should only offer a ticket that is significantly cheaper than all other public transport options.

The price for the Semesterticket varies depending on where you are in Germany. In Schweinfurt, in Franconia, the semester ticket currently costs less than €7 per month, but in larger cities like Berlin or Hamburg, it costs over €30, which is almost the same as the new “Deutschlandticket Jobticket” introduced for employees. In Cologne, Düsseldorf, or Aachen, the price for the semester ticket even exceeds €35.

The price difference compared to the €49 ticket could therefore be considered too small, especially considering that students can use it nationwide.

As a result, one university in Brandenburg has already withdrawn from the Semesterticket agreement with the Berlin-Brandenburg transport association (VBB), while a Berlin university has also suspended Semesterticket contracts from the winter semester onwards, and others are considering the same step.

Student representatives now fear that, if local transport authorities don’t make the €49 ticket cheaper for students, the Semesterticket model could be at risk of legal challenges.

“If the transport companies do not make the Semesterticket cheaper, we have to terminate the contracts,” David Wiegmann, the AStA chairman of TU Dortmund, told the German news site taz.

Matthias Anbuhl, the Chairman of the German National Association for Student Affairs, also said: “The solidarity model is a social achievement that is now in danger of collapsing.”

What solutions are being proposed?

The Conference of Transport Ministers (VMK), has formed a working group of representatives from the federal and state governments to develop proposals for a more affordable version of the €49 ticket targeting low-income groups like students.

READ ALSO: Germany’s most popular state plans discounted 49 ticket

According to the spokesperson for NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens), who currently leads the Conference of State Transport Ministers, their objective is to introduce a discounted model by the winter semester, though no concrete outcomes have been achieved so far.

One potential solution could be a nationwide semester ticket that is considerably cheaper than the €49 ticket. This alternative has already been given a name: the “Deutschlandticket Uni” (Germany Ticket for Universities).

But introducing this would require an agreement between the federal government and Germany’s 16 states, not only on the question of whether and how much funding they are willing to provide but also on reaching a consensus on the conditions.