Aviation Event 2014 – “is it Already Five After Twelve?“

The “Aviation Event 2014” held in Frankfurt Airport’s newly erected House of Logistics and Mobility Centre on 8. July, tried to tackle the issue as to whether German aviation industry is or can still be competitive in today’s aviation world.

The Frankfurt-held Aviation Event was attended by about 160 participants. / source: HS
The Frankfurt-held Aviation Event was attended by about 160 participants. / source: HS

The list of speakers was impressive, although it was disappointing that Volker Bouffier, the Hessian State’s Prime Minister did not turn up due to other commitments in Berlin.
Disappointing, considering the importance of the subject at hand, but maybe not surprising considering the general opinion that the German political circle does not support the aviation needs of the country enough.

Although there were many speakers on the agenda who tried to highlight the various aspects of Germany’s position as a viable and productive aviation location, three main issues were apparent to all.

  • the slow development of the German traffic handling infrastructure
  • the lack of financial support for the industry as a whole
  • increasing competition in Germany’s aviation sector mainly due to state subsidies.

Almost twenty speakers on various podium discussions placed their views on issues ranging from:

  • the challenges and chances for Germany in the aviation sector
  • the fight for customers between Low Cost and State owned carriers
  • regional airports - necessary or not?
  • the German aviation infrastructure – what’s there / what’s missing / dangers?
  • and - last on the agenda - a cargo podium discussion as to whether Germany as the so called “export world champion” has got it’s finger on the pulse with regards to its own competitiveness in the market.

All interesting subjects but when solutions are not at hand, then it can be seen as a lot of hot air.
Germany still holds the position as the world’s number one exporting country and the Germans themselves are a nation of frequent travelers.
However, the German aviation industry seems to be suffering under itself and the total lack of support from the German government.
Decisions for airport infrastructure changes and expansion are held back sometimes for years due to internal bickering between the various political factions and other institutions.
When comparing the above with their close neighbors such as the Netherlands and France, then one can safely state that German aviation expansion is still in the backwoods.

All of this was very clear from the comments and presentations of various speakers.
The event itself, although very well organized, did not in our view bring relevant suggestions and ideas with which the industry could “hit the politicians and regulatory bodies with.”

The cargo theme was last on the agenda and came late in the afternoon when some had already left and the remainders of the participants were surely tired.
A pity, considering the importance of the German exporters needing to hold their worldwide position and have viable solutions in order to enhance the cargo supply chain.

Complaints were again heard about the so called “unfair competition” from Gulf carriers on both passenger and cargo sectors. This claim relates to the subsidization of carriers from this area and the apparent low cost of operation compared to their German and European counterparts.
Surely it’s time to stop this complaining and come up with own ideas and ways of attracting passengers onto German carriers.

Basically, there are only two carriers affected - Lufthansa and Air Berlin.
Air Berlin is fully integrated into the Etihad camp, so there will be no argument there.
Lufthansa has during the past days announced plans to be more flexible with the introduction of its WINGS program (see report in 9th July issue of CFG).
On the cargo side, they have also seen the light and their 2020 program is geared towards holding their position as number one cargo carrier.
Their (LH) internal cargo thinking has taken a turn for the better during the past twelve months. This is largely thanks to Karl-Ulrich Garnadt, the previous cargo boss, who told his people some time back to come up with the means to stay on top and stop complaining about the competition.
“They will always be there.”

All in all, a very interesting day with the airports, airlines and so on.
A lot of information was exchanged and it would be a great pity if there were to be no proper follow-up especially in the direction of the government decision makers.

Markus Kopp, CEO of Leipzig and Dresden airports, who gave a very refreshing podium presentation, put it in a nutshell by stating, “it is pointless to continue complaining all the time. We have to face up to the problems and put emphasis on quality and innovation in order to be able to stay on top.”

The politicians have to be made more aware of what “aviation policy” means for the industry as a whole, for the environment and the general economy.
Unfortunately, only two members of the national parliament Bundestag attended the event – Stephan Kuehn from the Green Party and Leftist Thomas Lutze. Both parties are in opposition to the ruling grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats led by Chancellor Merkel. 

John Mc Donagh

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