Thousands of workers from south-eastern Europe are supposed to alleviate the summer chaos at German airports. But not all the details of safety and social standards have been settled yet.

Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing has announced a timely solution to deal with the chaos in air traffic. The FDP politician told the Welt TV channel on Monday that a solution was within reach.

“I hope that we can now get specialists from abroad with security checks without security gaps here at short notice so that this very, very unsatisfactory situation for the citizens can relax again.”

The German airports and their ground service providers want to hire thousands of foreign workers directly. The workers are to come from Turkey and some Balkan countries, among others, for a limited period of up to three months. Talks are currently underway within the federal government to clarify the prerequisites for this.

Unsatisfactory situation

With regard to the chaotic conditions at airports, Wissing spoke of an unsatisfactory situation. “People want to go on vacation and are happy to finally be able to travel again after such a long time. And that air traffic isn’t working right now, so: That annoys me too.”

The foreign workers would probably be employed directly by ground handling service providers, said the general manager of the airport association ADV, Ralph Beisel, on Monday of the German press agency. Models for hiring out employees would thus be off the table.

The federal government had signaled its approval of the industry plan at the weekend. However, a final decision in coordination with the Ministries of Labour, the Interior and Transport is still pending. A spokesman for the Ministry of Labor said on Monday that talks within the government were still ongoing. Above all, it is about the waiver of the so-called priority check, whether domestic employees are not also available for the jobs.

Recruited workers planned for summer vacation time

However, it may still be a few weeks before the first workers recruited from abroad start working at German airports. The Federal Ministry of the Interior expects that they can still be used during the summer vacation period. The workers recruited at short notice could, for example, be used in baggage handling, said the spokesman for the ministry, Maximilian Kall, on Monday in Berlin. “In the case of security checks, this is out of the question because of the training required there and the security standards that apply there,” he added.

The spokesman emphasized that anyone who works in baggage handling must also go through a security check. This review by the respective state authorities takes about two weeks. The aim of the federal government is to enable the additional workers to be deployed quickly, “so that the companies can quickly compensate for this massive shortage of staff that they have at the airports after the Corona period”. This measure is also about creating relief in travel “this summer”.

Problems in airport terminals

At the weekend, there were again problems in the terminals of several airports at the start of the holiday season in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Due to a lack of staff, there were long waiting times at the passenger controls, and a lot of luggage was initially left behind. In Düsseldorf, even the airport fire brigade had to help, as several media reported. Major problems are also expected at the start of the holiday season in Hesse on July 23rd.

The ADV had put the total requirement of the airports, including check-in and air security checks, at around 5,500 workers for this summer. Shortly before the start of the main holiday season, numerous airlines had canceled flights. Lufthansa canceled a total of almost 3,000 flights at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs, also because more and more crews are reporting sick due to corona cases. The low-cost subsidiary Eurowings also canceled hundreds of flights in July. At Berlin Airport alone, market leader Easyjet cut its program for the summer months by around 1,000 flights.