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Global Economy

When the journey becomes a stress test

"Flughafenseelsorge / Airportchaplaincy" is written on the yellow high-visibility vest that Bettina Klünemann puts on in her office in Terminal 1 of Frankfurt Airport in the morning. So it is easy for everyone to see. Then she quickly packs gummy bears and chocolate bars in her shoulder bag. "Nutrition for stressed passengers and employees alike," she says.

The summer holidays have only recently begun in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Tens of thousands of passengers travel via Frankfurt every day. That's why the evangelical pastor came back earlier from vacation. She knows that every helping hand is needed in the current situation and that it's about very mundane things – about lost luggage or the right gate. Your mission is to help passengers because there are problems around every corner.

As chaotic as ever

The evangelical pastor has been working at the airport in Frankfurt am Main for four years. She has never experienced such chaos as in the past few weeks. The queues in front of the check-in counters are long on this day as well. Even the professionals find it difficult to keep track of things.

A young man waves to the pastor. The American is not sure if he is in the right line. He wants to fly with Condor, but still has to have his documents checked and needs a boarding pass. However, boarding the plane is supposed to be in 40 minutes and the counter is not even in sight.

Klünemann starts running. She finds a Condor employee who prefers the American passenger so he can still get on his plane. A small success for the pastor, especially because everyone is working together and trying to make the best of the situation.

Stranded in Frankfurt

Next stop is the Lufthansa rebooking counter. This is where the problems accumulate. A mother came late from Chicago. She wants to go to her family in Poland and flew out overnight. The plane was late, so she and her child didn't make the transfer and are now stranded. The sun slams into the waiting area. Mother and child are exhausted and don't know if and how things will continue.

This is currently the case for many passengers, says Klünemann. Frankfurt is now a transfer airport. "And it's also partly the case that they can't fly that day, but only the next day." Then the problems began: where to stay, where to get diapers and baby food jars, and so on.

On their tours, the pastor and the volunteers keep discovering people who are crying in the aisles or who are in despair. She offers her mother from Chicago to come to pastoral care later, where the children can play in peace, there is food and drinks. That's all she can do right now.

Working at the limit

For the pastor, the situation of the employees is a matter close to her heart. There is just not enough staff there. Those who are there mostly work seven days a week, ten hours a day and hardly have any breaks. "Too much is being asked of those who are there and they want to do everything well, as they were used to and are used to. But that's not possible."

The employees are constantly behind their own expectations. This leads to them coming to work with fear and worry and then being so exhausted that nothing works anymore. "You get the emotions of all the people, whether they're looking forward to something, annoyed, whatever, nervous. That's the stress that it also causes for the employees. They suffer, they're fully involved. "

That's why Klünemann uses every opportunity to stop by and just hear what's going on. Daniela Krüger-Donnelly kisses her hand. She has been working for Fraport at the information desk for twelve years, and the pastoral visits are an important anchor for her. "Just let out frustration. I'm bad at addressing our passengers – but to say I had a passenger today was really a disaster, super rude and I have no idea what." At Klünemann she can get rid of it.

Joy and sorrow close together

There isn't much time to chat: the cell phone is ringing. The pastor is almost always available. It's about a death. The family wants to say goodbye before the body is taken to Egypt and asks if the chapel is free.

There are always people at the airport who, for example, have a heart attack and die. Joy and sadness are very close together here, which is what makes her workplace so special. From anger over a missed flight to death, the range of feelings that Klünemann deals with could hardly be wider. "It's the unhappiness that is felt at the moment. And whether it's a big loss or a very small loss: you don't know what it means to people at the moment. Tears are tears, I take them like that they are," she says, smiling.

"Excuse me, are you from the airport chaplaincy?" ask two young men. You recognized Klünemann by her yellow safety vest.

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