Ground staff strike brings Berlin to a standstill

The grounding of around 700 flights has left thousands of passengers stranded in Berlin today, with Ryanair and Lufthansa both severely impacted.

Berlin Airport is the company responsible for the operation of Tegal and Schoenefeld – the two main airports that serve the German capital – at 09:00 GMT it confirmed that virtually every flight from the two airports was going to be cancelled as result of strike (466 at Tegel and a further 204 at Schoenefeld).

With all of their operations based in the city, Air Berlin were obviously the worst affected airline, cancelling 202 flights in total. However, they were able to operate a handful of long-haul flights and managed to keep their Dusseldorf service running throughout the disruption. Passengers unable to board their flights were given train tickets to their domestic destinations or offered the opportunity to fly from Hanover.

Germany’s flagship airline was also impacted. Lufthansa confirmed the cancellation of 68 flights, with disruption to their popular Frankfurt and Munich routes causing issues for as many as 10,000 passengers. The carrier decided to offer affected customers the choice of free rebooking or a refund.

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Ryanair was forced to cancel 77 flights in and out of Berlin too; the low-cost carrier offered refunds or reroutes as well as transfers onto the next available flight.

The ground staff employed by Berlin Airport are on strike in protest against a rejected pay rise proposal. The 25-hour strike is being carried out to force through an increase in hourly pay from €11 to €12.
It has been organised by Verdi, the trade union that represents Berlin Airport’s security, check-in and baggage-handling staff. Around 2,000 employees have supported the walkout and they haven’t ruled out further strikes if pay negotiations don’t end with a reasonable compromise.

It is understood that the industrial action has been staged to coincide with ITB, the world’s largest tourism convention, which is taking place in Berlin until March 12th. Delegates travelling home were badly affected, with many abandoning flights in favour of long car or train journeys to alternative airports, and others leaving the trade fair to catch earlier flights in anticipation of the strike.

A temporary truce is expected to take place, which will allow things to return to normal at the airports on Saturday.