European airports continue to feel the pressure of staff shortages caused by the industry’s push to reduce cash drain under the yoke of pandemic-related travel restrictions. As the continent’s enthusiasm for travel rebounded, scenes of hours-long undulating queues played out at airports including Amsterdam Schiphol, Stockholm Arlanda and Frankfurt. To alleviate some of the problems at the country’s airports, Germany says it is ready to bring in skilled workers from abroad.
Airports call in haste with temporary solution
The workers would mostly arrive from Turkey and could be deployed as early as July. It would be a boon for German carriers, which canceled thousands of departures over the summer due to understaffing at airports. Lufthansa has cut more than 3,000 flights from its Munich and Frankfurt hubs, consisting mainly of intra-European flights where alternative modes of transport are available.
Airports reacted to news from the German government, relayed by transport, interior and labor ministers at the Bild am Sonntag, with great enthusiasm, demanding that the necessary security clearance be expedited quickly. The idea behind the initiative, said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, quoted by the FFH, is to,
“…to end the staff shortage at German airports and present a temporary solution. We will allow foreign assistants to be used, for example, for baggage handling. There is no compromise when it comes to of security.”
Lufthansa has canceled more than 3,000 flights due to staff shortages. Photo: Lufthansa
German airports short of 5,500 employees following pandemic cuts
According to the estimate of a designated government working group, around one in five employees are absent from German airports. In all airport operations, from check-in to aircraft handling, there is a staff shortage of around 5,500 workers. The government is now looking to bring in around 2,000 staff, some of whom will be invited from Turkey, a spokesperson said.
It is not the first time that Germany has looked abroad to help solve a problem of a shortage of skilled workers. Faced with a labor shortage after World War II, the country devised a program to bring in so-called guest workers. West Germany needed workers to boost production as the economy grew, and hundreds of thousands of guest workers left Turkey. Today, around three million people of Turkish origin live in Germany thanks to this agreement.
Lufthansa group carrier Brussels Airlines has just faced a three-day strike over staff shortages. Photo: Brussels Airlines
chaotic european summer
While bringing in foreign airport staff can help alleviate some of the biggest bottlenecks related to baggage handling, the situation for summer travelers in Europe looks set to remain anything but straightforward over the next few months. The crew of Lufthansa’s sister company, Brussels Airlines, has just ended a three-day strike due to the heavy workload. SAS Scandinavian Airlines also faces dissent within its ranks (if the carrier survives). Ryanair crew outside the UK are set to go on strike, as are British Airways ground and cabin crew over wages.