Air traffic in Germany returns to normal after strikes

27th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

The situation at Germany's main airports was returning to normal on Thursday afternoon after strikes by ground staff, baggage handlers and maintenance workers had earlier grounded hundreds of flights.

"Following the end of the strikes at 2:30 pm (1330 GMT), flight operations are stabilising. But disruptions can be expected until the end of the day," the operator of Germany's biggest airport in Frankfurt, Fraport, said in a statement.

"We are still asking passengers to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport and rebooking where necessary," the statement said.

Travellers were being advised to check in as early as possible as there could be queues, Fraport warned.

Fraport insisted that the situation had been far from chaotic because passengers had been warned in advance and were able to make alternative travel arrangements.

Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline and hardest hit by the strike, also said that normal operations had resumed after the end of the strike.

It had cancelled around 600 of its European and domestic flights until 2:00 pm (1300 GMT).

"All flights scheduled for the afternoon and evening will land or take off as planned. We do not expect any after-effects from the strikes in the coming days," Lufthansa said.

The strikes were staged by the giant services sector union Verdi and follows a series of walkouts in a number of public service sectors, such as local transport networks, in recent weeks.

Verdi is seeking pay increases of 100 euros ($137) a month for 2.1 million employees in regional and municipal public service sectors, plus an additional pay hike of 3.5 percent.

According to employers' calculations, this amounts to an overall pay increase of 7.0 percent.

- Public transport hit -

Strikes have brought public transport networks to a standstill for two days in a row in regional states such as Berlin, Hamburg, Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. Other services, such as kindergartens, have also been affected.

Despite Thursday's walkouts at airports, however, the situation appears to have been calm and airlines insisted that the impact was kept to a minimum.

Air Berlin, Germany's second biggest airline, listed only a small number of cancellations of flights from the major airports on its website.

The pay of more than 9,000 Fraport employees is aligned to public service sector agreements.

A spokesman for Munich airport, the country's second-biggest, said 130 flights had been cancelled so far, mostly by Lufthansa.

In order to limit the anticipated chaos, airlines advised passengers to check online before travelling.

And Fraport told passengers booked on the cancelled flights not to bother turning up at all.

National rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, is mobilising additional staff to cope with the expected increase in rail traffic as air passengers take the train instead.

Under an agreement between the rail operator and the airlines, passengers holding valid tickets for domestic flights on Lufthansa, Germanwings or Air Berlin can swap them for train tickets.

While Verdi is planning further action on Friday, "the biggest walkouts are over and airports will not be affected" tomorrow, a union spokeswoman said.

© 2014 AFP

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