Airports are allowed to organize passenger controls themselves – economy

Airports are allowed to organize passenger controls themselves – economy

Faster checks, shorter queues, passengers who don’t have to be there many hours before departure in order to miss the plane after all: In future, airports in Germany will be able to organize security checks themselves. They hope that they will then become more efficient – especially when there are large crowds during the holidays.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior confirmed on Monday that in future it will allow airports that wish to take responsibility for passenger screening. The agreement had previously been announced at the weekend by North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Transport, Oliver Krischer (Greens). He is currently the chairman of the transport ministers’ conference, which is meeting in Aachen on Wednesday and Thursday and also wants to talk about this topic there.

With the exception of the Bavarian airports, where the Free State has taken over, the federal government has so far been responsible for the controls and thus the federal police. It procures the equipment, trains and deploys the inspectors, who usually work for private security firms. Connoisseurs have complained for a long time that this system is too inflexible for peak periods. “The security checks work, but of course it’s easier if everything comes from a single source,” says Julia Fohmann-Gerber, spokeswoman for the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL). After all, the airports know best when they need where and how many staff.

The trigger for the reform was the summer of 2018: At that time, travelers, airports and airlines suffered from canceled flights, delays and Long queues at security checkpoints. And due to serious breakdowns, the federal police also closed parts of the airports in Bremen, Frankfurt and Munich. All within a few days. In Munich alone, almost 35,000 people were stranded on the first day of the Bavarian summer vacation, and more than 300 flights were canceled.

“We still have our hats on when it comes to security.”

Frankfurt, Germany’s largest airport, is now the model for the new regulation. Since the beginning of the year, the operating company Fraport has assumed responsibility there as part of an open-ended model project. Now it is she who orders the body scanners, controls the staff and commissions the companies. But the federal police are still on board: their officers not only monitor the work at the locks, they also oversee the training of the aviation security assistants, as the inspectors are officially called, and check them at the end. Should a passenger walk uncontrolled through a lockthen it is also the federal police who decide on a possible blocking of the terminal.

“We still have our hats on when it comes to security,” says a police spokesman in Frankfurt. The handover to the airport worked “smoothly” – “you have to look in the long term to see how well that works.” Not much can be said after three months, the holidays will be the decisive test.

Because it was the sometimes chaotic conditions, especially at Easter and in the summer of last year, that accelerated the reform project. In the Corona pandemic, airports, airlines and ground handling services had reduced a lot of staff, but suddenly they were faced with far more travelers than calculated. Countless flights were canceled in Germany as a preventive measure – and yet more suitcases remained and passengers were seated.

The pressure also grew in terms of security checks, which often remained unmanned in the past year. In most other European countries they are organized by the airports themselves, which according to experts is often faster but no less safe. The airports in Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, Hanover and Stuttgart, among others, have expressed interest in a change, says NRW Minister Krischer.

Whether the basic problem of staff shortages has been solved will only become clear when many vacationers flock to the check-in counters. “It’s looking pretty good at the moment,” says BDL spokeswoman Fohmann-Gerber. Everywhere people have been hired, processes improved, check-in machines purchased. At some airports, passengers can now also book fixed times for their security check. In view of a largely empty labor market, however, it remains “challenging to find enough staff”.

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