Chaos at German airports Long queues and abandoned suitcases

One consequence of airport congestion is a larger buildup of luggage - but also long queues at security checkpoints. One of the main reasons is the lack of staff due to the pandemic.

 Numerous suitcases lie in the baggage claim area because passengers could not take them onto the connecting flight.

Numerous suitcases lie in the baggage claim area because passengers could not take them onto the connecting flight.

Foto: dpa/Jonas Walzberg

Record-breaking long queues in front of security checkpoints, where people stand for hours, heaps of cancelled flights and now this: in Düsseldorf there were a large buildup of abandoned suitcases at the weekend. There are various reasons for this, including a lack of staff in baggage handling, as one employee told the Rheinische Post. As in the security services sector, there is currently a massive shortage of staff at German airports.

The staff had previously left the country. The pandemic and the associated uncertainties in air traffic were the reason for many employees to turn their backs on the industry. Probably the most important reason in this case: at Düsseldorf Airport there were malfunctions in the technology of the baggage conveyor system. As a result, more than 1,000 pieces of luggage were left behind and several hundred passengers had to travel home without their suitcases for the time being. Similar cases have been observed by passengers at Frankfurt and Cologne airports in recent days: A passenger disembarking at Cologne/Bonn saw suitcases piled up next to the Lost&Found area.

The transport of luggage is the responsibility of the airlines. Most of the largest airlines in Germany did not reply to the General-Anzeiger when asked, with the exception of Eurowings and TUI. A spokeswoman for Lufthansa's Düsseldorf subsidiary Eurowings spoke of a gradual easing of the situation. However, there are "numerous bottlenecks" all over the aviation sector, as the industry is missing about 150,000 employees due to Corona. Problems such as baggage handling in Düsseldorf or the long queues at the security checkpoints were direct consequences. But: "At the end of the first major holiday weekend, the situation at German airports has visibly stabilised. Despite a record number of guests, the situation in Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn, but also in Stuttgart and Hamburg, is currently described as relatively calm and controlled," said the spokeswoman. Therefore, there have been no daily cancellations. Eurowings considers this trend to be continuing. TUI replied to the General-Anzeiger that it was not aware of any "mountains of suitcases" that might have been caused by the airline at the five German airports served. All suitcases that did not reach their owners due to delays would be sent to them. A spokesman for Frankfurt Airport said the same. In such cases, the costs would be borne by the respective airline. Frankfurt Airport does not want to give any figures, but can confirm that there has been an increased amount of unclaimed luggage in the past few days. This happens during the usual peak times, such as the current start of the holidays. "We can't talk about mountains of suitcases, but the situation is quite tense," says the spokesperson.

Munich Airport is also keeping a low profile with concrete statements, but let it slip that there are currently a buildup of suitcases in the Bavarian city. "This happens for various reasons, for example because of cancellations or because a suitcase is not handed out quickly enough when changing planes. Since 40 flights were cancelled here in Munich on Friday, it was definitely busier than usual," said an airport spokesperson.

At Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, the volume of luggage has also increased. Press spokeswoman Sabine Deckwerth says that every day 300 suitcases are classified as being without owners. Most of them had not arrived on time for connecting flights, so that the airline in charge would send them on with the next flight if possible. "We didn't have that here before," she says, referring to the pandemic. How long it takes for passengers to get their luggage back depends on the duration of the flight.

Long queues before security checks

Long queues in front of security checks are also seen in Berlin. Unlike in Cologne/Bonn, where these led to three-hour waits at the weekend, here people waited for about an hour.

Securitas, a large security service provider that is also responsible for the checks in Cologne/Bonn on behalf of the Federal Police, replied to a GA enquiry that they had already activated all their personnel reserves and were desperately recruiting new staff. However, it takes months before they start working at the airports. Deckwerth: "These are really tough jobs at the security checkpoints. I wouldn't want to do that."

Original text: Simun Sustic, dpa

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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