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Strike brings chaos to Frankfurt Airport

Friday, February 21 14:57:54

A strike by security staff at Frankfurt airport caused nearly 50 flight cancellations and delayed thousands of passengers, bringing chaos to Europe's third largest hub today, the busiest day of the week for travellers.

Trade union Verdi had called on around 5,000 staff who carry out security checks on passengers, baggage and freight at the airport to strike for the entire day to push for their pay to be brought into line with counterparts at other German airports.

Hoards of people jostling to get to the front of lines at check-in and service desks thronged the airport, which usually handles 150,000 passengers on a typical Friday.

Almost 50 flights were cancelled, with Lufthansa scrapping nearly 40 but the biggest problem was getting people through check-in and thinly-staffed security, airport operator Fraport said.

At around 1330 GMT, Fraport halted security checks and advised people not to travel to the airport. It said those already there should ask airlines about train tickets or hotel rooms for the night.

Fraport said service staff would help those forced to camp out in the airport overnight.

"We're trying our best but it's a challenge," a spokesman said earlier. "We tried to inform people but the strike was called at such short notice."

Passengers booed striking staff as they walked through the terminal blowing whistles and waving placards saying: "We're worth it."

"We get 11.70 euros ($16.04) an hour once our trial period is over. People in Stuttgart get 14 euros an hour but we're the ones working at Germany's largest airport and the work is getting more stressful," Nsimba Gore, a 32-year old security assistant, said.

Verdi said more than 90 percent of security staff due to work today were joining the strike. The union's offer to let 110 people stand down from the strike for a short time to staff the security checks did not appear to ease the congestion. (Reuters)