Air traffic controllers under constant stress due to travel chaos

Tower at Bremen Airport

Long Good news in the travel chaos at Germany’s airports: Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) sees itself well prepared for the increased demand. “DFS is building capacity and ensuring that the further development of air traffic is guaranteed,” said Arndt Schoenemann, CEO of DFS, on Wednesday morning in Langen near Frankfurt.

Traffic is increasing significantly more than expected. But “we didn’t cut any staff during the crisis, we increased staff,” explained Schoenemann. 100 trainees were hired in 2020 and 2021, and 140 trainees this year.

The offspring is urgently needed. The great desire to travel after more than two years of the pandemic is not the only challenge facing the approximately 2,200 air traffic controllers at DFS. The Ukraine war also has consequences for air traffic control. Schoenemann said: “We have closures in the airspace around Ukraine. We see a shift in traffic towards our airspaces.”

While there are fewer flights in the so-called lower airspace, there are more in the upper airspace. Overflights take place in the upper airspace, which begins at an altitude of 7.5 kilometers.

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Because of the closures, the airlines are flying different routes than before. This applies, for example, to flights to Asia. “In some sectors there is even twice as much traffic at peak times as in 2019,” said Schoenemann.

Air traffic control does not see itself as a driver of delays

Additional traffic comes to Germany because air traffic control in France is introducing a new system and is therefore not working at full capacity. Added to this is an increase in military air traffic due to the war. According to Schoenemann, this has increased by up to 60 percent since the outbreak of war. “These corridors, if activated for the military, cannot be used for civilian air traffic.”

Despite this additional burden, DFS is not the driver of the delays, said the DFS boss. The delays caused by air traffic control are on average less than two minutes per flight. The number of corona cases is also currently not in the critical range. “We are monitoring the pandemic very closely and can react relatively quickly.”

Air traffic controllers at Dusseldorf Airport

Shift work, constant attention, good knowledge of English – the German air traffic control is looking for young people, but the requirements are high.

(Photo: dpa)

The air traffic control union (GdF) recently spoke of a not exactly “rosy personnel situation” at DFS. There, however, neither short-time work nor layoffs were initiated by the management, the union praised the approach.
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The slump in air traffic due to the pandemic meant that the state DFS lost more than 500 million euros in revenue in the two pandemic years 2020 and 2021. To partially compensate for this, DFS has increased fees for arrivals and departures, while fees have been reduced in other areas.

At the same time, the company received an equity subsidy of 300 million euros from the federal government. The total output – the turnover at gross values ​​- of DFS was 866 million euros in 2021. For the current year, the management expects 1.13 billion euros.

More: 6000 flights canceled – why a Lufthansa board does not see a quick end to the flight chaos

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