Apart from Berlin’s, most major German airports are affected by the strikes, including the two busiest hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Ground staff, public sector staff and air traffic control are all participating.

A 24-hour strike at seven major German airports is halting almost all passenger flights on Friday. 

Some 2,340 flights have been canceled, with roughly 295,000 passengers affected, including Romania’s foreign minister trying to get to the Munich Security Conference event. 

Germany’s busiest two hubs in Frankfurt and Munich stopped all regular passenger flights, with the strikes also hitting airports in Bremen, Dortmund, Hamburg, Hanover and Stuttgart.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport was the largest hub spared the disruption, though it suffered a full-day warning strike late last month

“When we look at the airport terminals this morning, it reminds us more of the worst days of coronavirus than of a warning strike,” Ralph Beisel of the ADV airports’ association told Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk on Friday. 

Airports and airlines have questioned the extent of the industrial action and its appropriateness, while the Verdi trade union said it needed to send a “strong signal.” 

Beisel said the terminals were empty, with advanced warning for the strikes meaning the vast majority of affected passengers at least knew not to come to the airports.

International flights were for the most part rescheduled, domestic travelers were mainly offered replacement rail tickets.  

Who is on strike? 

Ground personnel, air traffic controllers and public sector officials like firefighters are all on strike as part of major industrial action across multiple sectors by Germany’s second-largest trade union by membership, Verdi. 

As the airports are state owned, most of their direct employees class as public sector employees, including IT officials, technicians and administrators, as well as ground staff like check-in or boarding assistants, refueling truck drivers or disabled passenger assistants.

This industrial action is a change of pace from the pilots’ strikes that led to repeated disruptions, particularly for the Lufthansa and Eurowings airlines, late last year. 

Verdi is seeking improved pay and conditions for staff at airports in various functions, with a senior union representative saying the sector is hemorrhaging personnel even at a time when it is trying to recruit to fill gaps dating back to the serious reduction in air travel during the pandemic

“If nothing changes on pay, then another chaotic summer awaits us all — and we must prevent that as a matter of urgency,” Verdi’s Christine Behle said on RBB-Inforadio early on Friday. “Many people did not just decide to switch workplaces during the pandemic, we all learnt that during last summer’s chaos.”

Ground staff went on strike on multiple occasions during 2022’s peak travel season in Germany, most notably during July.

A combination of staff shortages and rapidly recovering demand also led to chaos and overcrowding at a host of European airports, even on days with no industrial action. 

Verdi announced Friday’s strike on Wednesday, saying the latest round of negotiations had brought little progress. 

Medical, aid, military, and government flights still in the air

Although almost all regular passenger flights to the affected airports were halted, some other crucial services were still operating. 

Medical transports, aid deliveries — for instance following the major earthquake hitting Turkey and Syria — military flights and government flights were still running as scheduled. 

This was particularly important for Munich International Airport, as the 59th Munich Security Conference formally opens on Friday

Most visiting leaders and delegates could still fly into Munich on board government planes. 

However, Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, who was scheduled to fly in on a commercial plane, would have to fly to Austria and then take a roughly four-hour car ride to Munich for the event, Romania’s embassy said.