Setback for passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport

Setback for passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport
Setback for passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport

Updated on October 13, 2020, 7:38 a.m.

Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – The corona crisis still has Frankfurt Airport firmly under control. Instead of the slow recovery that had been hoped for, the number of passengers at Germany’s largest hub fell again in September.

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Continuing travel restrictions and the intensified pandemic do not mean that any improvement can be expected for the rest of the year.

Almost 1.15 million passengers were counted that month, 83 percent fewer than a year earlier, as operator Fraport reported on Tuesday. That was also around 360,000 fewer passengers than in August, when the year-on-year decline was “only” 78 percent. The other German airports with their association ADV also confirm the trend: after a brief summer high, passenger numbers have tended to decline since mid-August.

The largest German airport has been running on the back burner for months. The fourth runway, the West Runway, will not be operational again until next Thursday (October 15th) after a forced break of almost six months. This would actually not be necessary for the still sparse flight operations, only the shorter distances to the de-icing system make the operation of the “18 West” appear sensible in the winter half-year.

Those responsible now count 20,000 instead of more than 200,000 passengers on a normal autumn holiday. One passenger terminal is completely closed, the larger Terminal 1 is only partially occupied. A little something is actually only going on in the transition building to the airport train station, because that is where the Corona test center can be found. But even here the queues are manageable.

The numerous shops and restaurants that otherwise make a living from passengers have also been hard hit by the pandemic. In the meantime, around 60 percent of the stores have opened again, says a Fraport spokesman. If necessary, an agreement was reached with the operators. In any case, rents are heavily dependent on turnover, so that less is automatically to be paid in the doldrums.

Only in the years 2022/2023 should the passenger numbers reach a new reliable base value, which Fraport boss Stefan Schulte places 15 to 20 percent below the record value from 2019 of a good 70 million. If up to 15 million fewer people come, the airport operator also needs fewer staff. The company wants to cut between 3,000 and 4,000 of the 22,000 or so jobs in a socially acceptable manner and is now making intensive use of the possibilities of short-time work.

So far, around 2,300 Fraport employees have shown an interest in the severance pay. The actual acceptance rate will probably not be known until the end of October, because the company, too, has to look at who is allowed to go with a financial incentive in the sense of “double voluntariness”. According to trade unionists, the handshake is not too golden anyway, because with a rate of between 0.75 and 1.0 gross salaries per year of employment, at least no huge sums of money come together.

For older workers, including those born in 1963, partial retirement and early retirement could be more attractive, but the funds available in this program could become scarce, according to company circles. The deadlines for this part of the downsizing run until the end of the year. The works council is already preparing to negotiate a reconciliation of interests and a social plan for pending layoffs.

Regardless of the corona shock, the expansion of Germany’s largest airport is only continuing with a gentle slowdown. The third passenger terminal in the south of the site, with an additional annual capacity of around 25 million passengers, corresponds to established airports such as Düsseldorf or Berlin-Tegel. It should now go online in 2025, a good year later than initially planned. At the earliest you have to say so, because Fraport wants to make a “demand-oriented” decision.

This demand will turn out to be very low for the partially nationalized major customer Lufthansa. The crane flies around two thirds of the traffic in Frankfurt at good times, but is currently leaving numerous jets on the ground due to the lack of intercontinental flights. Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr also continues to complain about the high fees on the Main and had already diverted traffic to Munich, Zurich and Vienna before the crisis. Nevertheless, the two companies have founded a joint venture called “FraAlliance”, with which new sources of revenue are to be developed together.

In order to survive the dry spell, Fraport, majority-owned by the State of Hesse and the City of Frankfurt, raised 1.3 billion euros in additional funds in the first half of the year and raised another 800 million euros with a new bond in July. This means that liquidity is secured at least until the end of 2021, says Schulte. Further state aid will be discussed at the upcoming air traffic summit in early November.
© dpa

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