Christmas travel in Germany went without major disruptions this year. The situation on the trains of Deutsche Bahn and at the airports remained relatively calm over the holidays. However, several airlines worldwide had to cancel flights because too many pilots had called in sick. The USA in particular was affected.
On Sunday, Deutsche Bahn drew a first positive balance of this year’s Christmas travel. “Christmas traffic on the railways has been running smoothly so far,” said a spokesman for the group on Sunday. Most travelers were expected on Sunday evening and Monday.
According to Deutsche Bahn, the number of bookings is higher than last year, but still 35 to 40 percent below the pre-corona level. As expected, more travelers used Deutsche Bahn trains on Thursday, the first day of vacation in most federal states.
550,000 seats in Christmas traffic
This year there are a good 550,000 seats in Christmas traffic – 50,000 seats more than a year ago. From Wednesday to January 2, Deutsche Bahn has been using special trains on connections that are in high demand, for example between Berlin and Stuttgart or Munich and between Cologne, Düsseldorf and Berlin.
Operations at the major airports in the Federal Republic also ran largely smoothly. A spokesman for the operator Fraport said on Sunday that everything was going well at the largest German airport in Frankfurt on the second day of Christmas. Fraport had previously announced that after a busy period of travel until noon on Christmas Eve, there was little going on in the further course and on Christmas Day. For the coming days up to the turn of the year, he predicted, as usual, a slightly lower number of passengers than on the Christmas days. “We’re letting the year end quietly,” said the spokesman.
According to a spokeswoman, Christmas traffic was also “relaxed and calm” at the capital’s Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (BER) airport – despite low temperatures: Operations on Sunday morning started at frosty temperatures of -12 degrees. The runways were de-iced without any problems. 95,000 passengers took off and landed from Friday to Sunday, the spokeswoman said. Most passengers would have prepared well for their trip and the Corona rules and would have had the necessary documents ready.
The airport company expects a larger crowd again on January 2nd, the last day of vacation in Berlin and Brandenburg. Around 45,000 passengers are expected again. For comparison: On the peak days during the autumn holidays, around 60,000 passengers traveled via BER. Mainly due to staff shortages and more complex check-in processes during the pandemic, there were long queues there.
Air traffic increased slightly at Munich Airport on Boxing Day. Around 620 take-offs and landings are planned, said a spokesman on Sunday. The day before there had been around 500. There will be more flights again than in the previous year with the extensive lockdown. “But of course we are still a long way from before the pandemic.” The controls, in particular of vaccination and convalescence certificates as well as test evidence, which initially caused delays, have been established, said the spokesman.
US airlines canceled hundreds of flights because of the Omicron variant
In the US, on the other hand, many people’s holiday travel plans were thwarted: major US airlines canceled hundreds of flights because of the Omicron variant. Thousands of flight cancellations occurred worldwide – the USA in particular were affected. According to the broadcaster CNN, around 1,700 flights within, to or from the USA were affected by the cancellations on Christmas Eve and the two Christmas holidays. CNN relies on the flight data website Flight Aware. In the USA, the omicron variant is now dominant – the number of corona cases had recently skyrocketed.
On Saturday alone, the US airline Delta had canceled almost 370 flights and justified this with Omicron and with winter weather in parts of the USA. More than 300 flights should also be canceled on Sunday. “The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the workers who run our operations,” United said.
Lufthansa also announced on the Thursday before Christmas that it would have to cancel six return flights between December 23 and 26 because so many pilots had called in sick. It stays that way, the number of canceled flights has not increased further, said a spokesman for the German Press Agency on Sunday. In addition to a connection to Tokyo, the German airline also mainly hits US destinations such as Houston, Boston and Washington. The company did not want to speculate about a connection with Omikron, since Lufthansa was not informed about the nature of the illness.