Chaos at Frankfurt airport as strike halts traffic

Europe’s second-largest hub closed after security staff strike

Hundreds of flight passengers wait past closed security gates during a strike in Frankfurt airport yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

Hundreds of flight passengers wait past closed security gates during a strike in Frankfurt airport yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

 

The warning strike, running from 2am yesterday until 11pm, forced the cancellation of about 100 flights by mid-afternoon. Some 1,300 flights were scheduled for the entire day.

Passengers caught out by the strike continued to arrive at the airport during the day, leading to chaotic scenes with ground staff. By midday, as crowds began to build in both terminals, airport operator Fraport issued an urgent warning appealing to intending passengers to stay away.

The strike is the result of a long-running pay strike between Fraport and German union Verdi, which represents 5,000 private security staff. It is demanding hourly wages of €16 and has dismissed as “far too low” an employer offer of up to €13.

Union representatives blamed the airport operator for the “chaotic scenes” resulting from the strike.

“We gave appropriate notice, the airport was clearly completely unprepared or had a completely wrong appraisal of the situation,” said Matthias Venema, head of the Verdi strike.

Irish passengers were affected by the strike when Aer Lingus cancelled its 9.50pm service to Dublin.

Transfer passengers were unaffected by the action, according to a Frankfurt airport spokesman, but most of the two terminals were closed by midday due with no security staff to process passengers arriving for their flights.


Second-busiest hub
Frankfurt is Germany’s largest airport, and mainland Europe’s second-busiest, with two-thirds of flights operated by German operator Lufthansa. The airline cancelled 13 flights yesterday, while others took off as planned, but only with transfer passengers on board.

Passengers settling down for a night at the airport showed understanding for the security staff staff and annoyance towards Fraport.

“Security has priority but I have little understanding that there were clearly no plans for a strike that was announced in advance,” said one man to local Frankfurt radio. “This is pure mismanagement with no information.”

After several hours standing in a queues awaiting news, several passengers collapsed and had to be revived by medical staff.

Fraport spokesman Mike Schweitzer criticised the union for calling a strike on a Friday.

“It’s completely out of proportion. With 150,000 passengers, this is our busiest day of the week, with knock-on effects on the rest of Europe, ” he said.

Verdi has vowed not to hold any more strikes before a sixth round of pay talks on March 5th.