Delays, cancellations, lost luggage: such problems plagued passengers again this year.
The industry is expecting a difficult summer – and the responsible body thousands of complaints. "It is to be expected that there will be irregularities again in the 2019 summer flight schedule, which will give the arbitration board a lot of work," heinz klewe, the managing director of the arbitration board for public passenger transport (sop), told the deutsche presse agency.
Lufthansa wants to prevent a repeat of last year’s chaos summer with additional employees, aircraft and spare parts. Before the hamburger air traffic summit on thursday (28. March) europe’s major aviation group sees itself well positioned. Board member detlef kayser, however, has demands to make of the airport, the air traffic control organizations and, last but not least, the politicians.
Customers can turn to the conciliation body with complaints after traveling by train, bus, airplane or ship. In last summer’s flight chaos, the number of complaints in 2018 had risen to a record level of more than 32.000 doubled. Seven out of eight complaints came from airline passengers. The flood of complaints continues. In january and february, twice as many passengers turned to the mediation office as in the same months of the previous year. "The sop expects a similarly high arbitration volume for 2019 as in the reporting year 2018," it says in the annual report, which is available to dpa.
Last year, air traffic was disrupted by bottlenecks in air traffic control, air traffic controllers’ strikes, long waits at passenger checks and a spate of bad weather. In addition, the airlines were struggling to fill the gap left by the insolvent air berlin.
The federal association of the german air transport industry warned shortly that summer 2019 could also be difficult. The problems are also the subject of an "aviation summit" this thursday in hamburg. Klewe expects that the aftermath of two crashes of boeing 373 max 8 aircraft will also bring difficulties for passengers. Because many countries have banned flights for this type of aircraft.
Lufthansa says it will keep 600 extra people and 37 reserve aircraft on standby in summer, 15 more than last year. In addition, kayser told the german press agency in frankfurt, they have expanded their stock of spare engines and parts to the tune of 100 million euros. The total volume of shipments is still high. "Last summer, we lost around 250 million euros in additional costs because of the delays, including compensation payments to passengers. This year, we’re putting in about that amount to make our flight operations more reliable."
The manager hopes that faster processes for handling aircraft on the ground will have a significant impact. In the future, more frequent refueling will take place while passengers are already boarding the aircraft. The time gains would then be used as a punctuality buffer and not immediately incorporated into a tighter flight plan.
Communication with customers will also be significantly improved digitally. The company’s declared aim is to be able to offer a prompt alternative travel option in the event of a flight cancellation. Kayser also announced a clearer handling of the handgepack rules. At the eurowings subsidiary, they have already started to load hand luggage into the cargo hold more often than before when the cabin becomes too full. The hitherto more tolerant interpretation will be reviewed in the coming months and guests are expected to be asked more often to abandon their handpacks if possible to save time.
Kayser explained that the air traffic control procedures were far from "premium". He very much hopes that the german air traffic control will succeed in the short term in persuading the pilots to work more overtime in the summer. In the medium term, in addition to more pilot training, the use of modern technology and a more flexible deployment of personnel is necessary to eliminate bottlenecks in the airspace.