Annalena Baerbock’s Pacific trip had been planned for a long time. The Foreign Minister wanted to travel halfway around the world to visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for a week. Due to ongoing problems with her government plane, Baerbock finally canceled her trip and is now back in Germany.
What did the Foreign Minister want to achieve with her visit?
The visit was a matter of the heart for Baerbock. She wanted to send a signal of appreciation to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for condemning Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The federal states are also important to the federal government when it comes to realigning relations with China.
Great expectations were linked to the planned visit in the region. In Australia, many Aborigines had waited for years for colonial-era cultural assets to be returned to the indigenous Kaurna people. And in Fiji, the whole cabinet announced that it would be the opening of the first German embassy in the island state, it said.
Why did the trip fail?
On the route to Australia, the Foreign Minister’s machine was refueled in Abu Dhabi. But when the plane took off for the Pacific early Monday morning, the flaps could not be retracted – the minister had to turn back.
After a test flight by the Bundeswehr crew over the emirate was successful, the tour group tried again early Tuesday morning (local time). But disillusionment followed quickly: everyone on board could sense that the machine was of the type A340–300 did not gain altitude and speed as usual – like the night before. A short time later, the flight captain announced the bad news. “Unfortunately, the same problem that we had yesterday happened to us again,” he said. He’s been doing this for a few years, “but nothing like this has happened in the history of the readiness to fly.”
The machine finally circled over Abu Dhabi and again released tens of tons of kerosene in order to be able to land safely at the starting point.
What alternative plans were there?
While still on board, it seemed as if the Foreign Minister was determined to make a third attempt at the journey. If the Bundeswehr doesn’t make it, you just fly line. The motto was: The recent breakdown of the government aircraft is indeed embarrassing. But the political damage if she canceled her hosts and turned around would be many times greater.
For hours, the Foreign Office’s protocol department tried to save the trip. Connection possibilities were searched for, considered, found and rejected again. Apparently it was difficult to get seats on commercial flights for the delegation of more than 50 members.
In the end, Baerbock’s journey probably also failed because individual program items could no longer have taken place. The trip to the island republic of Fiji in the South Pacific, for example, could hardly have been properly organized without the government jet. Shortly after 8 a.m. local time, the Foreign Office announced that the trip would be canceled.
How did Baerbock come back to Germany?
The Foreign Minister drove with part of the delegation to Dubai, about 150 kilometers away, and flew home from there by scheduled aircraft. The exact flight route should not be published for security reasons. As the dpa reports, Baerbock landed at Hamburg Airport on Tuesday evening.
How are the reactions?
Baerbock was upset on platform X, formerly known as Twitter: “We have tried everything: unfortunately it is logistically impossible to continue my Indo-Pacific journey without the broken plane. That is more than annoying.”
In Berlin, the demolition triggered a new debate about the readiness to fly. The left-wing faction’s chief housekeeper, Gesine Lötzsch, demanded their abolition and the switch to scheduled flights Mirror: “Flight readiness is expensive, unreliable and causes an oversized ecological footprint. So it won’t do anything to save the climate and the federal budget,” she explained. The FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann called the event “simply embarrassing” and called for the procurement of new aircraft.
Who is allowed to use the government aircraft at all?
The readiness to fly transports the country’s most important politicians. The main users are Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Foreign Minister. But other ministers, Bundestag President Bärbel Bas, the incumbent President of the Bundesrat, the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, state secretaries and parliamentary group leaders of the parties in the Bundestag are also allowed to use the readiness to fly.
Sometimes there are also larger delegations with employees, consultants, company directors and also journalists. Airmen and helicopters are also used to transport material and to transport the sick and injured. For example, Ukrainians injured in the war were flown from Poland to Germany with it.
Why at least the ministers don’t fly line?
When she took office, Baerbock had announced that she would switch to normal scheduled flights more often for climate protection reasons. In fact, there will often be practical reasons for using government planes: they take off whenever it fits into the tight schedule of politicians. If an appointment abroad lasts longer, the plane waits and does not have to be laboriously rebooked. Above all, foreign, development and defense ministers also fly to places to which there is no scheduled connection from Europe. Specially protected military transporters are also sometimes used here.
What are the consequences after Baerbock’s breakdown trip?
The Bundeswehr’s readiness to fly has two aircraft of the type A340, which were bought second-hand from Lufthansa in 2011. One of them was actually supposed to be discarded in September, the Baerbock plane at the end of 2024. These dates are now to be brought forward, as a spokeswoman for the Air Force confirms. “We’ll be the two of them A340 as soon as possible, that means decommissioning prematurely in the coming weeks,” she said A340 newer A350 be used for long-distance. Currently there are two A350-Machines can be used in the flight readiness, a third has already been purchased, but is still being equipped for the special requirements of government machines.
What is special about the government aircraft and are there more breakdowns than on scheduled flights?
The A340 and A350 are specially modified. In addition to normal seats in the rear, there are business class seats in the front and a conference area. There is also a work and private area for the respective boss, i.e. the most important politician on the plane with a bedroom and bathroom.
Although numerous high-ranking politicians have had massive problems with flight readiness in recent years, the Ministry of Defense rejects the impression that there are more breakdowns than with scheduled flights. “That is by no means the case. We are quite normal at the technical level of a renowned airline,” says Berlin. Due to the small fleet, however, damaged planes cannot be replaced as quickly as with a large airline. In addition, the attention to the politicians’ flights is simply greater, so that mishaps lead to headlines more often. According to the ministry, the government aircraft are serviced by “a well-known airline”. The fleet is in excellent condition.
How do members of government travel in other countries?
Governments of other countries also have their own machines, but the fleets are sometimes significantly smaller than those of the federal government. For example, the Italian Air Force has three Airbus aircraft 319 CJ several business jets of the type Falcon and helicopter. French President Emmanuel Macron and his government are in the Airbus A330 or one in six Falcon-Machines on the way. US President Joe Biden flies in a converted Boeing jumbo jet 747-200B, known as Air Force One. As a flying office, the machine and a similarly configured replacement aircraft are specially tailored to the needs of the US President. They have the latest communications technology and anti-missile devices, and can be refueled in the air.
The US military also has a fleet of helicopters for VIP transports. When the President travels abroad, they are often even flown to the travel destinations in cargo planes. In the USA there is almost no criticism of the great effort, which is mainly made for security reasons.