Hahn Airport Deficit Continues Among Political Strife

The airport in Germany’s Huensrueck area situated between Frankfurt and Cologne, expects to reach a 2015 deficit amounting to around 16 million euros. This was the message given in early December by Salvatore Barbaro, Financial Secretary for the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and Advisory Board Chairman of the airport. Meanwhile, local politicians tabled plans to turn Hahn into an ‘Aviation Technology Centre’ while a Chinese bidder has expressed his interest to invest in the airport.

 

Hahn Airport has been in the news for the past couple of years regarding a dwindling customer base, bad results and the State government‘s decision to tender the airport out for sale.

Whilst the air cargo sector has suffered considerably this year with the demise of Air China Cargo and Yangtze River Express flights moving to Frankfurt and Munich airports, it seems that the passenger figures have stabilized somewhat.
However, this does not seem to enable the embattled airport to get out of the red.
On the contrary, Barbaro indicated that 2016 would probably be just as bad and turn in a further deficit of around 16 million euros.
These figures, along with the record minus in 2014 of €45.2 million make it a strong challenge to convince a future investor to put money into the airport infrastructure.

Salvatore Barbaro  -  photo hs
Salvatore Barbaro - photo hs

Political parties join in with different interests
The airport is jointly owned by the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse who respectively own 82.5 and 17.5 percent.
The local Rhineland-Palatinate government which is run by the Social Democrats (SPD) has been looking for an investor for some time and got the green light from Brussels to  place a tender for this purpose.
In the meantime, various pieces of land in and around the airport have been sold off, but this has not stopped the bleeding.
Hahn was hard hit when Air China Cargo (ACC) left in December of last year for Frankfurt. The management had high hopes that ACC would add further much need revenues into the airport’s coffers.
The cargo arm in Hahn was broken when Yangtze River Express was lured away to Munich. This left the airport with 30 percent less tonnage overnight and so far they have by no means been able to recoup enough of this loss.

Christian Democrat Julia Kloeckner  -  courtesy CDU
Christian Democrat Julia Kloeckner - courtesy CDU

Aviation Technology Centre
The politicals opponents of the SPD in the local government, the Christian Democrats (CDU) under the leadership of Mrs Kloeckner have themselves come up with what they see as an idea to save Hahn in the future.
Well - why not ! - there are local elections next year and both parties have been at loggerheads over Hahn Airport for some time already.
Mrs Kloeckner and her team state that they are working on a concept to turn the airport (or part of it) into a so called “Aviation Technology Centre.”
What this exactly means and whether that also might be a deciding point for a new investor to take up the reins, remains to be seen.

The CDU bosses are claiming that the SPD local government is backpedaling on the sale of the airport and awaiting the results of next year’s elections.
We’ve seen what effect political interference and bickering has done to slow down and almost ruin airport development in the past.
The most recent example is Berlin’s new (unfinished) airport which has become the laughing stock of the nation.

Are there really suitable investors out there?
The tender documents it seems went out to quite a few possible contenders and strong rumour has it that there are three now in the final running.
One it is said is a strong Chinese investor and who the other two are remains unknown.
Maybe the political parties can bury the hatchet for a while in the interest of those relying on their jobs at the airport so that the investor process can be sped up and hopefully brought to a positive ending.

We can imagine that it is an almost impossible job for the Hahn commercial team to attract new carriers to the airport, or even keep those left, when an obvious political “back-and-forth” is in progress.

John Mc Donagh

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