“Clear priority at the moment is managing the situation at the airports for summer and autumn travel,” said a spokesman for department head Nancy Faeser (SPD) to the Handelsblatt. “All decisions about any structural changes will have to be made afterwards.”
The expert on air passenger rights from the SPD parliamentary group, Zanda Martens, had previously stated that the experiment, with which sovereign air security tasks had been placed in private hands decades ago, had finally failed. Aviation security tasks should therefore be returned to the public sector.
Martens suggested Düsseldorf Airport as a nationwide model project. Her parliamentary colleague Sebastian Hartmann campaigned for orientation at Munich Airport.
The aviation industry also sees a need for improvement, but at the same time points out that it is not primarily a matter of “state” or “private”. “Political responsibility and supervision is and will remain with the federal government anyway,” said Matthias von Randow, Managing Director of the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL).
Competition between security companies puts a lot of pressure on employees
“When it comes to the question of structural improvements and an increase in efficiency in aviation security checks, the decisive factor is whether the specific management of organisation, personnel and the use of technology is in one hand and is as close as possible to what is happening,” he explained. Von Randow therefore praised the decision to transfer control responsibility at the Frankfurt air traffic hub from the federal government to the airport operator next year.
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At airports, where the federal government now has this control responsibility, it is divided between the federal police headquarters, federal police authorities on site, the federal procurement office and private service providers. “That makes decision-making processes very complex,” said von Randow.
Private security service providers, including companies such as DSW, Frasec, Kötter and Securitas, now employ thousands of aviation security assistants nationwide. The providers compete for the service contracts, which always run for several years. The competition between security companies is intended to save costs, but it also puts a lot of pressure on employees – and leads to mistakes.
Things are different in Bavaria. At the Munich airport hub, the entire control responsibility lies with a state authority that is specially responsible for this, explained von Randow. “It’s less complex and faster.”
The SPD domestic politician Hartmann therefore favors the Munich model. There, the controls are organized by the security company SGM, in which the Free State holds a majority stake.
Munich Airport as a role model
According to Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU), the advantage of this model is that the employees have “secure and permanent jobs” and are paid according to the collective agreement for the public sector. “This pays off through a high level of satisfaction and motivation as well as lower fluctuation,” the minister told the Handelsblatt.
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The background to the debate is the currently tense situation at the airports, with waiting times at passenger and baggage controls sometimes lasting for hours. The Ministry of the Interior speaks of an extremely tense situation at airports throughout Europe when it comes to handling holidaymakers in particular.
“This situation is mainly due to a lack of staff at all companies involved in the handling process at the airports, which was triggered by the pandemic and the standstill in air traffic,” said the ministry spokesman. “The federal government and especially the federal police are using every opportunity to support the airport operators in the current situation.”
In addition to the long waiting times, there are often delays and flight cancellations. The federal government is already helping aviation with accelerated procedures, so that temporary assistants from Turkey, for example, can step in with baggage handling. The industry is hoping for 1,000 to 2,000 people, most of whom could be deployed from August.
However, that should already be too late for the holiday business at many airports. The situation at the largest German airport in Frankfurt could therefore worsen at the weekend. Already on the last day of school before the summer holidays in the federal states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, there will be more going on this Friday than at any time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic in March 2020.
Nevertheless, there is not a desire everywhere in Germany to reorganize aviation security tasks. The Senator responsible for aviation in Bremen, Claudia Schilling (SPD), told the Handelsblatt: “We doubt whether the creation of new structures for these tasks at state level will ensure better services and processes.” However, the current airport chaos at Bremen Airport is also quite manageable.
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