Over 445 flights were cancelled at airports across Germany on Tuesday after staff joined other public-sector employees in a series of strikes over pay.
Baggage handlers, ground service personnel and security staff all took part.
Outside the airports, bus and tram drivers, nursery teachers, refuse collectors and other workers who keep society running also staged warning strikes in cities around the country.
The Verdi union is seeking a 6.5 per cent increase this year for two million citizens employed by the state.
This would boost paypackets by at least €200 (£168) a month.
It has rejected a 3.3 per cent increase over two years, saying that this would be eaten up by inflation.
Over 200,000 public-sector staff have taken part in a programme of warning strikes over the past week to increase pressure before the next round of collective bargaining talks scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
Verdi president Frank Bsirske advised employers at a rally at Frankfurt airport on Tuesday to bump up their offer, warning that a failure to do so could trigger wider labour unrest.
"We stand at a crossroads," Mr Bsirske declared.
"The fact that today the airports are shut down is a clear signal that there is potential for escalation.
"I hope that employers understand the strong signals from the workforce and place a competitive offer on the negotiating table."
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who is handling the government negotiations in the dispute, blasted Verdi for bringing the strikes to the airports, branding it an "inappropriate response.
"We have made a substantial offer," he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. "It is uncalled for to mistreat the public with these strikes."
Airline Lufthansa cancelled over 445 flights at Frankfurt airport alone, where workers were off the job from early morning to mid-afternoon.
Other airports affected include Munich, Duesseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Stuttgart, Bremen, Hannover, Muenster and Dortmund.
In Berlin's Tegel and Schoenefeld airports, baggage handlers who are also represented by Verdi but engaged in a separate wage dispute were also off the job.
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