Everything you need to know about travel disruption in Germany next week

24 March 2023

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is warning of a “massive disruption” to air travel this coming Monday after officials confirmed a 24-hour walkout.

As Germany’s largest airport — serving 250 destinations with more than 80 airlines — it’s likely to affect flights within Europe and worldwide.

Monday’s action is just one part of a national dispute over staff pay at airports across Germany. It is set to coincide with Munich International Airport’s (MUC) closure for commercial air travel March 26 and 27. There will be a double whammy of strikes on public transport Monday, as rail union EVG has also given the go-ahead for strikes.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why is the strike happening?

Monday’s planned standoff is the latest in many workforce disputes affecting travel. Led by Ver.di labor union — representing everyone from baggage handlers to airport security in Germany — representatives have been asking for a fair pay raise to reflect skyrocketing national inflation and an uptick in living costs.

BORIS ROESSLER/GETTY IMAGES

Because aviation and airport bosses have been unwilling to meet these demands, strategically staged walkouts have crippled air travel across the country numerous times this year. Often, the walkouts affect multiple airports at once.

Earlier this month, hundreds of flights were axed at four German airports — Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport (FKB), Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), Dusseldorf International Airport (DUS) and Stuttgart Airport (STR) — after staff walkouts over pay. Similar action occurred at airports in Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg this month.

Union bosses hope a one-day strike at Germany’s biggest airport might speed up negotiations.

What are the chances of making my flight at Frankfurt?

Slim, but not impossible. In previous weeks plenty of flights have operated at airports hampered by strike days. However, these events have led to increases in security wait times and delays in takeoff times. So even if your flight looks OK on paper, remain vigilant.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Germany’s flagship carrier Lufthansa is predominantly based out of Frankfurt and will bear the brunt of the chaos. It will likely suffer more cancellations and delays than any other outfit. With international giants, such as American Airlines, running multiple services to Frankfurt, the forthcoming 24-hour action will also have implications on the other side of the Atlantic.

Are other German airports affected?

Frankfurt acts as the biggest connecting hub for domestic and international travelers in Germany. So, the disruption at Frankfurt will certainly cause ripple effects at other airports.

If you have plans to fly to or from other airports on your way to Frankfurt, you may want to seek guidance from your airline in case of cancellations closer to travel time.

Additionally, don’t rule out further strike action at other airports. On March 22 and 23, Hamburg Airport (HAM) was crippled by a bout of similar industrial action. In something of a planned domino effect, walkouts at Munich are set to follow this Sunday and Monday before staff members at Frankfurt join the picket line themselves.

What should I do if I think my plans are affected?

Don’t panic. If there’s a whiff of trouble, your airline should already be taking measures to contact you and let you know that cancellations are expected. Keep tabs on your email inbox, text messages and the app.

There’s no harm in checking with the company on Twitter or by phone if you think your travel will be affected by a strike. Remember that you should be fully covered for a refund if your chosen airline can’t rebook you on another flight.

However, travel insurance is a pretty gray area regarding strikes because they’re very much a “foreseeable” disruption. Read up on the small print of your insurance policy and check out this guide on insurance coverage you may have with your credit card. If you’re based in the United Kingdom, check out this in-depth guide.

Should I be wary of anything else?

Absolutely. If you’re traveling in Germany next Monday, expect a wave of union strikes over pay to cause cancellations on buses, trains and trams as well.

Deutsche Bahn is just one operator already warning of disruption and has canceled all of its long-distance trains for March 27. Regional services are also likely to face plenty of cuts.

This strike will affect 230,000 staff members nationwide for EVG. Ver.di, which counts over 2.5 million staff members, will ask many of its followers to stand down from their stations. As a result, it’s feared that Monday’s mass strike action could also spill over into the preceding days.

If you’re traveling across Europe on a business trip (perhaps with multiple stop-offs in financial hubs like Frankfurt), be aware that strikes are occurring across the continent. This could affect your travel in a major way.

For example, neighboring France has seen millions take to the streets in protest over government plans to increase the age for retirement. This ongoing strife has correlated with strikes in practically every aspect of public transport — ranging from air traffic controller walkouts to train operators bringing their services to a grinding halt.

Stay prepared for last-minute changes by always checking the situation on the ground before you travel.

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