For members


Could a NATO air defense drill in Germany spell chaos for travellers this summer?

Between June 12th and 23rd, NATO is conducting its largest air defence drill yet in Germany - and it could cause issues for holidaymakers. Here's what you need to know, and how travellers could be affected.

Passengers queue at BER airport in Berlin.
Passengers queue at BER airport in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

​​Anyone planning a holiday or trip in June may have to reckon with some restrictions. NATO members are rehearsing the state of emergency and want to test, among other things, how quickly fighter aircraft can be deployed in the event of a crisis. 

The exercise, called “Air Defender 23”, is NATO’s largest deployment exercise since its founding and it has implications for travellers and commuters.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Although NATO itself wants to keep the restrictions in the airspace over Germany “as low as possible”, Germany’s air force (die Luftwaffe) has already announced that there will be no civilian air traffic in northern, southern and eastern Germany for several hours in June.

Airlines will then have to fly around these areas.

Will flights have to be cancelled?

It cannot be ruled out completely, even though NATO is trying to keep the impact on passengers as low as possible.

However, the air force pointed out that, while direct flight operations to major airports in Germany will not be blocked in general, there may be time delays and flight deviations. 

Lufthansa, Eurowings, Condor, Germania, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Sun Express, Qatar, Austrian and Emirates, among others, are not permitted to take off, land or fly in the vicinity where fighter jets are practising flight manoeuvres.

The trickiest thing for passengers is that NATO hasn’t yet released no concrete flight plans during its exercise. Many airports are therefore unable to provide information upon request. 

The exact routes and flight times will be determined within the next week leading up to June. Only then will airlines be able to inform affected travellers about changes.

What do travellers need to know?

As a rule, all travellers are informed in good time about possible flight cancellations and delays.

If a previously booked flight is postponed, you may be entitled to compensation payments under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, so it’s worth checking if this applies to you. Package tours are also covered by the regulation so you could be entitled to a refund even if you booked the holiday as part of a deal. 

Flight over Germany

A flight over Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

If you are reimbursed by the airline and organiser for the flight hassle, you have to settle it, according to Stiftung Warentest. For example, if you have received a refund of €80 from the organiser after a cancellation and are still claiming €250 from the airline, the latter would only have to pay out €170.

The EU Passenger Rights Regulation applies to all flights departing within the European Union. For flights landing in the EU, it only applies if the airline is based in one of the EU member states.

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

Which areas are the most affected?

According to current plans of the Luftwaffe, the following areas will be used for exercises between June 12th and 23rd.

  • the eastern training area, including parts of the Baltic Sea and the coastal region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, between 11 am and 1 pm
  • the southern training area – a corridor from the Bavarian Lechfeld to the Baumholder training area (Rhineland-Palatinate) – between 2 pm and 4 pm, and
  • the northern exercise area – mostly located over the North Sea – will be reserved for military use between 5 am and 5 pm

No exercise flights will take place on the weekends. The flight routes are largely identical to the flight corridors already permanently used by the Luftwaffe.

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For members


How two airlines are offering budget flights from Berlin to the USA

Starting later this year, flights from Berlin to New York and back could cost as little as €300. Here's how two Nordic airlines are offering budget services, and we look at other flight connections between Germany and the States.

How two airlines are offering budget flights from Berlin to the USA

With almost 30 years expiring between the first plans and its completion, Berlin’s BER airport was a long time coming – but now there are signs that the capital’s airport could finally be turning into the international transport hub it was intended to be.

From this winter, Iceland budget airline Play will be offering return flights from Berlin to New York for just €300 – providing passengers are fine with a brief stopover in Reykjavik. 

The first operator to run direct flights out of BER to New York, Norse Airlines, announced in spring that it would be transitioning to a seasonal service between the US and the German capital. 

Over winter, flights out of Berlin with Norse will fly directly to Miami instead, with the New York service resuming next year in summer. At the lowest end, the Nordic airline offers one-way tickets for €179 to New York and €199 to Miami, though the availability of these tickets is relatively limited.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know as an American moving to Germany

Passengers can also choose between the Norse Economy or Norse Premium cabins, and pick tariffs depending on the level of comfort and flexibility they want. With the Flextra tariff, for example, hold baggage, two in-flight meals, better seats and cheaper re-booking are on offer. 

On Play’s end, CEO Birgir Jonsson says the low prices are possible due to the airline’s distinctive model, which brings passengers from throughout Europe to Iceland’s capital in under three hours, and then flies them across the Atlantic in five.

It also operates smaller aircraft that are quicker to fill, and offers a ‘no frills’ service without wifi or plug sockets, with hold luggage costing €99 extra. 

“Our fleet is young and economical, we don’t have a business class,” Jonsson told regional newspaper Tagesspiegel.

The airline also avoids landing at well-known airports that are pricier to dock in: “We don’t fly to New York JFK, but to Stewart,” Play’s CEO added. “We don’t fly to Toronto, we fly to Hamilton.”

Previous attempts to create a budget offer for long-haul travel have fallen flat – and Norse has already had to ditch two of its US services out of Berlin this year – but the two Nordic airlines are bullish about their chances of keeping low-cost, long-distance travel between Berlin and the USA on offer. 

“We have costs that are about half the capital costs of other low-cost airlines,” CEO Björn Tore Larsen told Tagesspiegel. 

The airline has also been quick to adapt its schedule to demand, cutting flights to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale earlier this year and switching its New York flights to a season service before launching its flights to Miami on December 15th. 

Which airlines offer direct flights from Germany to the US?

Along with the two destinations out of Berlin, three other cities in Germany offer direct flights to the United States: Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.

In terms of sheer choice, Germany’s busiest airport, Frankfurt, is the best city to flight out of to US destinations.

Out of Frankfurt, there are currently 19 direct flights to US cities, including New York, Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. The main flight operators are Lufthansa, United and Delta airlines.

A Lufthansa aeroplane taxis at Munich airport

A Lufthansa aeroplane taxis at Munich airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Flights to New York take just under nine hours and cost around €400 for a return, while flights to Los Angeles take just under 12 hours and cost around €600 for a return on average.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The airlines that offer direct flights between Berlin and the US

Munich, meanwhile, is the second best option for people flying to the United States out of Germany.

There are currently direct services to at least 11 US cities out of the Bavarian capital, including to Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco Denver and Chicago.

As you might imagine, flights out of Munich do take a little longer – around half an hour more than flights out of Frankfurt – but prices tend to be relatively similar.

Alternatively, Delta operates direct flights between Düsseldorf and Atlanta.

How many Americans visit Germany each year?

Citizens of the US make up one of the biggest groups of tourists in Germany, with around three million Americans visiting per year in pre-Covid times.

Meanwhile, approximately 2.1 Germans make the trip across the Atlantic to the US each year, with the vast majority of them visiting New York. 

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How important are American tourists to Germany?