North Rhine-Westphalia: Almost endless queues at airports: no improvement?

If you want to take a flight at a NRW airport, you should start early.

North Rhine-Westphalia: Almost endless queues at airports: no improvement?

If you want to take a flight at a NRW airport, you should start early. Because the waiting times can be very long - and the worry of missing the flight because of this is an unwanted stress factor at the start of the holiday. What's next for this tiresome topic?

Düsseldorf/Cologne (dpa/lnw) - According to a trade unionist, the long queues at the major airports in North Rhine-Westphalia will continue to be visible throughout the summer holidays. Özay Tarim, the trade union secretary responsible for the airports at Verdi NRW, said that there is no sign of an increase in personnel at the security checkpoints anytime soon. "And with the floor service providers, the staffing level will probably also remain very thin."

Can foreign forces ease the tension?

The industry's plans to use specialists from Turkey and Balkan countries, for example for baggage handling, should no longer be of any use to airports in NRW during the summer holidays, said Tarim.

The federal government recently cleared the way for the easier recruitment of personnel from abroad. This is about additional employees at ground service providers who, for example, take care of baggage handling and providing stairs for planes. It's not about the security checkpoints - companies are working here on behalf of the Federal Police. Workers from other EU countries are not allowed to work here.

In addition to the waiting times, the fact that airlines continue to cancel connections makes things even more difficult. Eurowings canceled flights from Düsseldorf to Nice, Milan and Westerland for this Saturday and Lufthansa canceled two flights on the same day from Düsseldorf to Frankfurt.

How do the airports assess the use of foreign workers?

A spokesman for Cologne Airport was positive and said that this possibility was "currently being examined intensively". However, the processes involved in aircraft handling and baggage handling worked well. "From the point of view of the airport, the most urgent task is to sustainably improve the staffing situation at the Federal Police's passenger control."

What are the unions saying about the situation?

According to his own statement, trade unionist Tarim is currently on the road every day at the various NRW airports. "The queues are getting longer and longer - it's unbelievable," he said, shaking his head. This is particularly annoying since the problems were foreseeable. As an employee representative, the impending staff shortages after the end of the corona restrictions were already pointed out last year. However, the companies working in various airport areas have done far too little to retain staff despite the crisis, said the union secretary.

Working conditions have not improved. "We said that this would take revenge in the summer - and now we've hit the wall." The situation is very difficult for the remaining employees in the security checks and in ground handling because the workload and the stress are immense. "It's piecework for far too few people." This is dangerous for safety, Tarim warned.

How do the security companies see the situation?

Securitas is responsible for the security gates at Cologne-Bonn Airport. A company spokesman justified the staff shortages with, among other things, a high level of sick leave due to corona and unexpectedly high passenger numbers. Employees are actively recruited and qualified personnel are continuously trained. "We start our training courses at short intervals and therefore always have several courses running," says the Securitas spokesman. "Accordingly, new employees are always joining us every few weeks." It is not possible to say when the situation will improve.

The service company Piepenbrock, whose subsidiary DSW is responsible for the security checks at Düsseldorf Airport, did not want to comment on the current problems when asked.

Are the procedures at the security checkpoints optimal?

Anyone who recently had to wait in one of the queues and nervously looked at the clock may have asked themselves whether the processes at the security checkpoints could not be speeded up. No, said Jens Flören from the federal police and emphasized that the processes would not be changed. "Thoroughness and thus safety come before speed."

The Federal Police commissions the security companies to work on the locks. The police spokesman confirmed that the companies were looking for staff at high pressure. In Düsseldorf, the responsible company DSW was able to send 62 additional workers to the start of the summer holidays to take care of the briefing and tub return at the security checkpoints. In all likelihood, 60 more will soon be available.

The personal Achilles heel are the aviation security assistants who carry out the baggage scans and body checks. Here, personnel recruitment is more complex, according to the federal police, the training lasts 12 weeks and not just under a week as with their colleagues who have less skills.

Could straightening out flight schedules help?

From the police spokesman's point of view, the flight plan is also part of the current difficulties. "The problem is not the mass of passengers, but the concentration at peak times," said Flören. If the flight schedule were straightened out and if the volume of passengers at the security checks and terminals were roughly the same over the course of the day, this would be much easier for the security companies to handle.

As a "last resort" it is possible that federal police officers step in and take over the briefing and tub return at the locks. However, this only happens if there is an impending threat to aviation security and "if there is no other way," said the federal police spokesman. The police officers are not allowed to scan the luggage, they are not trained for that.

And how was the situation on the second holiday weekend?

A week after the start of the summer holidays, the situation at the airports in North Rhine-Westphalia has eased considerably. Because slightly fewer passengers had to go through the security checkpoints than before: around 132,500 passengers used Düsseldorf Airport last Saturday and Sunday, and 111,000 are expected on the second weekend of the summer holidays. In Cologne-Bonn, the number drops by 5,000 to 110,000 passengers, with the weekend figures referring to three days each, i.e. Friday to Sunday.

Queues formed again at both major NRW airports on Saturday, but the handling in Düsseldorf and Cologne was orderly and quiet.

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