There is good news from BER – and there is bad news. The airport has been fighting its way out of the pandemic lull since spring. The number of passengers is increasing – which is good because it increases the income of the heavily indebted airport company. But the upswing already harbors a danger.
At the start of the summer holidays in three weeks, chaos threatens, including queues at the check-in counter right up to the door. Now the Berlin CDU is sounding the alarm. In order to prevent the worst, everything should be done to quickly recruit more staff, they say. In addition, tents would even have to be provided if necessary.
The terror of autumn could return
Christian Gräff remembers the beginning of the autumn holidays last year with horror. “The check-in queue stretched outside the terminal,” says the economic politician and BER specialist of the Berlin CDU in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung.
Terminal 1 has been considered a neuralgic point of the airport for a long time. Critics bemoan the opulent furnishing of the check-in hall, which leaves too little space for those waiting where it is needed. “The check-in hall is too small,” says Gräff.
Terminal 2 has been in operation since Easter. But that, according to Gräff, “only helps a little, but not significantly”. So it fits into the picture that this Terminal 2 was weak on Good Friday of all days. The baggage conveyor system failed for hours. The result was long waiting times, and some passengers missed their flight.
But the real problem at BER lies elsewhere: with the staff. There are simply not enough people working for the ground service providers, for check-in, luggage transport, cleaning and also for the security service. This is a long-term consequence of the pandemic, when the airline business collapsed and staff were cut en masse.
Now the numbers are rising again. In April, 1.8 million passengers were counted at BER, 500,000 more than in the previous month. But it is also true that in April of the pre-Corona year 2019, 3.1 million people were processed in Tegel and Schönefeld. But the trend is pointing upwards. In May 2022, BER already registered 1.93 million passengers. In total, there were 6.7 million people in the first five months of this year. The utilization of the machines was more than 80 percent in May 2022. In January it was just under 60 percent.
These are primarily positive numbers from an economic point of view. Airport boss Aletta von Massenbach is ironically optimistic. “The Easter holidays in particular have shown that BER Airport is prepared for an increase in flight operations,” she was quoted as saying in a press release. But he also said: “Together with our partners, we continue to work hard to offer our passengers the smoothest possible processes in the future.”
CDU demands boss talks – and tents for those waiting
If CDU man Gräff has his way, further talks are urgently needed. “There must be discussions with all those involved at management level,” demands the politician. In particular, however, it is necessary to speak to the offices responsible for the security checks of airport employees. “Some of these reviews are currently taking more than six months. That’s way too long.”
The shortage of staff at BER cannot be solved in the short term, and Gräff also knows that. With the start of the summer holidays on July 7th, things will get crowded and cramped. His advice: “The airport must prepare for queues and, if necessary, set up tents for those waiting.”
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