Hundreds of Flights Canceled and “Massive Disruptions” in Rail Travel Across Germany Due to Strikes

Millions of passengers have been affected by Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn staff strikes, which will continue into the weekend.

A red "warn-streik" sign next to a bright yellow Lufthansa logo sign a Lufthansa ticketing counter at an airport in Germany

Lufthansa was advising travelers scheduled to fly out of Frankfurt and Hamburg airports on March 7 not go to the airport due to a strike by security staff.

Photo by Yulia Reznikov/Shutterstock

Travelers in Germany have had to navigate around a flurry of strikes during the past two days, as staff of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn and German air carrier Lufthansa have walked out over ongoing contract negotiations between the transit providers and unions.

The rail and air strikes, which are expected to continue through Saturday, March 9, already have affected millions of travelers and “crippled” the country’s air and rail systems, according to German media outlet Deutsche Welle.

In addition, a strike by security staff at Frankfurt and Hamburg airports disrupted operations on March 7. In a statement on social media site X, Lufthansa advised passengers who were scheduled to fly out of either airport on March 7 to “not go to the airport.”

Frankfurt Airport, the largest in Germany, shared its own travel advisory recommending that all Lufthansa passengers check their flight status before heading to the airport during the strike period. As of Friday, March 8, the airport was still experiencing disruptions.

“Currently there are different strikes going on, and all of them are affecting travelers in one way or another,” Jakob Wert, editor in chief of International Flight Network, a Germany-based aviation trade publication, told AFAR. “If you’re unlucky, you might get affected by three strikes in the same day. At least that was the case yesterday [Thursday] for some travelers.”

On March 7 and 8, Lufthansa was only operating about 10 to 20 percent of its normal flight schedule due to a previously announced strike by ground crew, the carrier said in a statement on X. The strike was organized by Verdi, also known as the United Services Union, a Berlin-based organization with about 2 million members; it was scheduled to run from March 6 at 8 p.m. until March 9 at 7 a.m. (local time).

State-owned rail network Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, continues to grapple with “massive disruptions” following a 35-hour strike by GDL (Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer), a union of train drivers, that was scheduled to end on Friday afternoon. The train operator announced the strike on social media site X earlier this week. The strike is aimed at rail workers being able to work fewer weekly hours while still earning the same full pay in a move to ease high inflation and staff shortages in Germany, according to Reuters.

Deutsche Bahn said in a statement that it expects to resume “basic passenger transport service” as of 6 a.m., local time, on Saturday, March 9. But the rail operator also warned passengers that disruptions will likely continue across regional and local trains.

Wert, who commutes every weekday from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt, said he used Deutsche Bahn’s emergency timetable, which the rail operator created in response to strikes, to get to work on Friday morning. However, Wert was also affected by delays—marking the 16th time strikes have disrupted rail travel for him in 2024, he said—and advised travelers to rely on the emergency schedule only if they have no other alternatives. “If you have the ability to go by bus or if you have a car, I’d definitely recommend taking that,” he said.

More strikes to come

Strikes across Europe affected millions of travelers in 2023, and unfortunately for travelers in Germany, there are likely to be more on the horizon in 2024 for the country’s rail and air carriers.

Red Deutsche Bahn train on the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne

The Deutsche Bahn train drivers union has warned that additional strike actions could crop up with little advance warning.

Courtesy of Jonas Junk/Unsplash

GDL has stated publicly that future strikes may not receive advance notice, which could prove even more chaotic for travelers. “I’m expecting there to be much more disruption by the short notice strikes than what we currently have,” Wert said.

In addition, a union representing Lufthansa flight attendants recently voted on possible strike action, which also could affect flights in the future.

During the current strikes, many rail and air passengers took to social media, asking Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn about what they should do in case of cancellations.

Lufthansa addressed some passenger inquiries via X, stating that it is automatically handling rebooking and repeatedly recommending that travelers use the carrier’s app or contact a customer service rep to handle rebooking instead of coming to the airport. Customer service agents were also pointing affected passengers to its website to file claims for refunds.

Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, has a section of its website dedicated to passenger rights, with detailed information on how to fill out a claim.

Journalist Blane Bachelor regularly contributes to outlets including CNN, Conde Nast Traveler, and Garden & Gun. Her main specialties are travel and aviation, but she especially loves offbeat topics (like anything spooky or haunted!). Blane was born and raised in Florida and has lived in four countries abroad. Her current base is Amsterdam, where she resides with her husband and son.
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