- Airlines and airports are struggling to cope with returning passengers.
- A Lufthansa flight attendant spoke anonymously to Insider about the current travel chaos.
- He said the airline was on the brink of collapse and had caused its own problems.
This is an edited, translated version of article which originally appeared on July 1, 2022. This is an essay based on a conversation with a Lufthansa employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
I am in my mid 30s and have been a flight attendant for Lufthansa, a German airline, for 11 years. I have never experienced such chaos in my entire career as I have in the last few weeks.
To summarize the situation, Lufthansa is on the verge of collapse.
If things continue like this, the whole system will come down like a house of cards and I don’t think the company can fix the problems anytime soon.
Problems are self-inflicted. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline made major cuts to its cabin crew training.
Normally, even fully trained flight attendants must go through a “refresher course” every year. This includes reviewing new safety regulations for evacuations or special features of a particular aircraft they are on board, among other things.
Lufthansa has generally stopped these refresher courses, meaning that some flight attendants do not have valid licenses and therefore cannot board the aircraft.
This, combined with higher sickness rates due to COVID-19 and the constant demanding workload for flight attendants, is bringing the licensed workforce to its knees.
There are not enough flight attendants to cover the shortages, which has affected me personally. My on-call periods — when I’m assigned to a flight if someone suddenly becomes unavailable — have doubled. I now have two call periods each month, both five days long.
In the past, being on call didn’t necessarily mean you were needed; it was more of a precaution. These days I can be 100% sure that I will be called and told that I have to cover for someone during my on-call periods.
The problem goes even further: I can’t even rely on the flights that Lufthansa assigns to me in advance.
I often get on the first plane in the morning, but I don’t know what my last flight will be, where I’ll be going, or how long I’ll have to stay there.
One night in another city can quickly turn into two nights, which disrupts my schedule and affects my availability for other flights.
Since the chaos began, my personal life has been non-existent; I just can’t plan anything anymore.
The result of all this is delays, canceled flights and very angry passengers; and their misery continues even after they have boarded.
Due to the lack of staff, there are problems not only with security and check-in, but also with onboard services such as catering – either there is not enough food or there is no food at all. Recently, during a flight, customers approached us in the galley to ask if there was anything to eat. We can no longer fulfill our role as hosts.
The situation makes me angry and sad at the same time. As a flight attendant, I love my job, but it’s unbearable to see such a famous company fail everywhere due to bad decisions made by the upper echelons.
Lufthansa told Insider that the difficulties and staff shortages are affecting the entire aviation industry.
Lufthansa said it had implemented numerous measures and was recruiting additional staff “to ensure the greatest possible stability of the flight schedule and thus give passengers more planning certainty”.
Flight safety strikes, weather events and, in particular, the increased rate of infection with COVID-19 have strained the system, the airline said.
As for the training cuts, Lufthansa said the decisions to retrain flight attendants were made based on “reduced working hours at the time” and the expected growth rate. “Currently, from a planning perspective, we can ensure the operation of our fleets,” the company said in a statement.
Lufthansa added that flight cancellations and increased levels of COVID-19 could lead to last-minute schedule changes and their on-call procedures should be adjusted to account for this.