UPDATE: German airports struck by travel chaos due to Friday strikes

For the third time in a month and the second time this week, the Verdi union has called for a walkout among ground staff at four German airports on Friday.

Numerous flights are shown as cancelled on a screen at Düsseldorf Airport. The Verdi trade union has called on its members to stage warning strikes at airports in North Rhine-Westphalia and in the public sector.
Numerous flights are shown as cancelled on a screen at Düsseldorf Airport. The Verdi trade union has called on its members to stage warning strikes at Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn, and Düsseldorf airports on Thursday and Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

This time, airports in Cologne-Bonn, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe are experiencing travel chaos.

Passengers were told to expect delays and cancellations starting Friday morning at the four airports, when security and customs staff are expected to take part in the “warning strike.”

Flights taking off from five cities are affected – as Cologne and Bonn share an airport.

Stuttgart Airport has already cancelled all departures and arrivals for Friday, with regular operations due to resume Saturday. The airport is advising affected passengers to contact their airline directly and not come to the airport Friday.

As part of an agreement with the its workers’ union, Düsseldorf Airport is running a minimal, emergency service on Friday – so some flights will still go ahead, but will be severely disrupted. Many will still be cancelled altogether. Passengers are urged to check their flight’s status and to keep hand luggage to a minimum to speed up security screening – which will likely see severe delays. 

Cologne-Bonn, meanwhile, is expected to see cancellations and delays on both Friday and Saturday – due to how the shift schedules there work with the timing of the strike. Full service isn’t expected to resume there until Saturday afternoon. The airport says passengers should expect several cancellations, and to check directly with their airline to make any necessary alternative arrangements.

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if a flight is delayed or cancelled?

The Verdi union, which called the strikes, is demanding a 10.5 percent pay rise – or an increase of at least €500 a month – for the public sector and aviation security employees it represents, to address rising cost of living.

Already this week, it brought air traffic going out of airports in Berlin, Hanover, Hamburg, and Bremen to a standstill. Only weeks ago, it staged walkouts at nine German airports, meaning that some of the affected airports this week have already seen their second strike in the space of a month.

The union’s warning strikes are being staged to put pressure on employers before the next round of collective bargaining on March 27th to 29th, following previous rounds that have broken down  – with the exception of a deal Deutsche Post recently struck with postal workers.

Verdi’s head in Baden-Württemberg, Hanna Binder, said of the strikes: “Without better working conditions, we will no longer find enough people willing to take up these jobs on ground crews.” These jobs are essential for air traffic safety in Germany, she added.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are there so many strikes in Germany right now?

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Where traffic will be worst in Germany over the holiday weekend

If you're driving this holiday weekend, you might run into some traffic jams. Here are the roads where it's expected to get busy.

Where traffic will be worst in Germany over the holiday weekend

People in Germany can expect a nationwide holiday on Monday May 29th for Pfingsten (Pentecost).

As many people are getting a day off work to enjoy the long weekend, the roads are going to be busy. 

Germany’s ADAC – Europe’s largest automobile association – says drivers should expect worst traffic jams on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and on Whit Monday. 

“Holidaymakers must be prepared for long traffic jams on the Whitsun weekend,” said the ADAC. “Holiday traffic as well as more than 1,300 road works will make car journeys a test of patience.”

READ ALSO: 9 of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €49 ticket

By contrast, it should be relatively quiet on the trunk roads on Whit Sunday. 

Here are the routes (and areas) expected to be most congested:

  • Greater Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich
  • Trunk roads to the North Sea and Baltic Sea
  • A1 Cologne – Dortmund – Bremen – Lübeck
  • A2 Dortmund – Hanover – Berlin
  • A1/A3/A4 Cologne ring road
  • A3 Oberhausen – Frankfurt – Nuremberg – Passau
  • A4 Kirchheimer Dreieck – Erfurt – Dresden
  • A5 Hattenbacher Dreieck – Frankfurt – Karlsruhe – Basel
  • A6 Kaiserslautern – Mannheim – Heilbronn – Nuremberg
  • A7 Hamburg – Flensburg
  • A7 Hamburg – Hanover – Würzburg – Füssen/Reutte
  • A8 Karlsruhe – Stuttgart – Munich – Salzburg
  • A9 Munich – Nuremberg – Berlin
  • A10 Berlin Ring
  • A11 Berliner Ring – Uckermark junction
  • A19 Wittstock/Dosse triangle – Rostock
  • A24 Berlin – Hamburg
  • A61 Mönchengladbach – Koblenz – Ludwigshafen
  • A81 Stuttgart – Singen
  • A93 Inntaldreieck – Kufstein
  • A95 / B2 Munich – Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • A96 Munich – Lindau
  • A99 Munich bypass

Another obstacle that could make travel difficult is roadworks. The ADAC said there are currently 1,304 motorway construction sites across Germany.

Here’s where there are some short-term closures:

  • A45 Hagen – Gießen in both directions between Hagen-Süd and Lüdenscheid-Nord on Sunday, May 28th, from 10am to 4pm
  • A59 Düsseldorf – Cologne in both directions between Kreuz Leverkusen-West and the end of the A59 extension (Rheinallee) from 10pm on Friday, May 26th, to 10pm on Sunday
  • A30 Amsterdam – Rheine in both directions near Salzbergen until May 30th, 5pm

Here’s a look at the longer-term closures to look out for:

  • A44 Kassel towards Dortmund between Dreieck Kassel-Süd and Kreuz Kassel-West until 30th January 2024
  • A45 Hagen towards Gießen between Lüdenscheid-Nord and Sauerland service area until further notice
  • A45 Gießen towards Hagen between Lüdenscheid and Lüdenscheid-Nord until further notice
  • A49 Kassel towards Gießen between Kreuz Kassel-West and Baunatal-Mitte until January 30th 2024
  • A66 Wiesbaden – Frankfurt in both directions between Wiesbaden-Biebrich and Wiesbaden-Mainzer Straße until further notice
  • A94 Munich – Passau in both directions between Malching and junction B12-Malching-Nord until September 30th 2023
  • A226 Travemünde direction Bad Schwartau between Lübeck-Siems and Dreieck Bad Schwartau from now until June 19th, 5 p.m.

Keep in mind that diversions are signposted and there may be some changes at short notice. 

Building sites and expected congested traffic over the holiday weekend.

Building sites and expected congested traffic over the holiday weekend. Photo: ADAC/DPA

What about neighbouring countries?

If you’re driving out of Germany, you’ll also probably experience some heavy traffic. 

International routes such as the Tauern, Inntal, Rheintal and Brenner motorways, as well as the Gotthard route are likely to be affected. 

Some popular destinations include the Carinthian lakes, the Salzkammergut and Lake Neusiedl in Austria as well as resorts in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Valais.

If you are heading into neighbouring Austria, note that the Arlberg road tunnel is closed until the beginning of October, and drivers have to use the Arlberg Pass as a detour.

READ ALSO: Which foreign countries can you visit with Germany’s €49 ticket?

Can you avoid the traffic?

Experts say that people shouldn’t take a secondary route unless it’s an official diversion. 

That’s because traffic then builds up on smaller roads and clogs up smaller towns. 

“The police strictly control the alternative routes on the weekends and holidays,” said ADAC traffic expert Alexander Kreipl. Rescue services can also be affected by the increased traffic volume if too many people use other routes. 

Instead it’s best to try and travel at a time that isn’t so busy – or make sure you have plenty of water, snacks and good music in the car and be prepared to wait.