Staake Blocks Leipzig Airport’s Future, Critics Claim

Following controversial staffing decisions, criticism is mounting in the State of Saxony, questioning the role of Leipzig Airport’s Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Erich Staake. They blame him of cementing LEJ’s standstill by having decided to rotate jobs instead of pushing the reset button for enabling new executives to take over responsibilities.

Leipzig-Halle Airport  -  company courtesy
Leipzig-Halle Airport - company courtesy

Mr Staake squandered the chance of a new start at loss making Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG (MDF) consisting of the airports Leipzig/Halle and Dresden, critics say. By fundamentally restructuring the management, he could have set the course for a more promising future of the airport, they claim. This he shied away from, for whatever reasons.

Sea freight guy managing air freight
Staake is an ocean freight expert. In his role as Managing Director of Duisburg Port he is responsible for the business at Europe’s largest inland harbour by volume. 
Appreciating his managerial skills and expertise, in 2009 Saxony’s government as majority stakeholder in MFD, appointed Staake as Chairman of MFD’s Supervisory Board. This decision was linked to the politician’s hopes that under Staake’s guidance the cargo business at Leipzig would enjoy a massive upturn, ending the year long standstill it had suffered until then. This might surprise at first sight since LEJ’s cargo volumes are growing rapidly year-by-year. However, when taking a closer look it shows that 95 percent of the airport’s total cargo throughput is contributed by DHL Express.  In other words, if it weren’t for DHL, Leipzig’s air freight turnover wouldn’t come off the ground.

Little has come of the cargo plans
This is evidenced by Lufthansa Cargo’s Leipzig role. Back in 2008, the carrier and MFD signed an agreement to mutually develop the air freight business. LH at that time stated in a release: LEJ is “one of the most modern and high-performance hubs in Germany, which gives Lufthansa Cargo long-term security in terms of planning and capital expenditure.” Not much has been left from these once far-reaching plans. On the contrary, LH Cargo has reduced their staff and commitment at the airport.

Undecided Salis future
Meanwhile, AirBridgeCargo operates at LEJ where the carrier has set up a technical base. ABC is one of the very few all-cargo airlines landing at the Saxon airport, mostly combining freight flights with maintenance services.
Also uncertain is the future of the Russian-Ukrainian (50/50%) joint venture Salis that operates out of LEJ on behalf of the EU States and most NATO members deploying AN-124 freighters belonging to either Russia’s Volga-Dnepr or Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines fleets. The Salis contract expires in about a year.
Passenger numbers also came to a halt, standing at roughly two million annually. Long-distance coaches and trains are taking many travelers to Berlin, with Leipzig being obviously unable to benefit from the ongoing problems the unfinished Berlin-Brandenburg-International (BER) is facing.

High velocity trains keep going by
Leipzig Airport is directly connected by an own airport station to the high-speed ICE trains, linking Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. However, the ICEs don’t halt at LEJ due to little passenger demand. But at almost each public appearance MFD’s top managers emphasize the existence of the railway link, instead of questioning the fact why the ICEs pass by their airport without stopping.
Next, observers regret that the current management failed to attract logistics companies to invest in the location or acquire commercial properties close to the airport to set up their businesses. The result is disappointing. Consequently, most freight volumes trucked between Eastern Europe and Western Europe are passing by Leipzig/Halle to be uplifted from Frankfurt, Luxembourg or Amsterdam instead of LEJ.

Staake’s strange decision
And how did chief supervisor Herr Staake react in view of the stagnation?
By rotating jobs at management level without executing any further changes.
This results in a bizarre allocation of competencies shown in sales. From now on, three managers will share similar sales responsibilities: Bettina Ganghofer, Christoph Schilling and former MFD helmsman Markus Kopp who lost his top job to Johannes Jaehn two months ago. Jaehn comes from a major DIY store where he was responsible for logistics.  
Meanwhile, opposition within Saxon’s political landscape is mounting, not only questioning the decisions taken by Erich Staake but also asking to replace him in his role as Chairman of the SB.
However, short-term changes can hardly be expected. The next board meeting is scheduled to take place in June of 2016.

Heiner Siegmund

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