Speakers representing various industry associations and members of the Berlin parliament verified the above reproach at a high-ranking meeting held in Berlin last week, attended by 98 invitees. Their core message: urgent action is needed to prevent the German cargo industry from falling behind.
This following alarming figure presented at the Berlin meet says it all: every second ton of cargo produced by German exporters is uplifted from airports outside the country, predominantly in
Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Paris CDG, and increasingly in Liege.
The reason was identified by experts who presented their findings at the Berlin gathering: Ground handling processes including security procedures and customs practices at these locations tend to be more user friendly and faster compared to standards common at their German peers.
Cargo is growing at 3.7% p.a., benefitting mostly non-German airports
This is evidenced day after day in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich and other airports, where politically enforced bureaucratic procedures, over-regulated work processes, and night flight restrictions prevail. “Competitors like Amsterdam, Liege or Luxembourg are growing faster because of their outside-the-box-thinking. Hence, they offer forwarders and airlines tailored solutions. This they can do because the European airport landscape misses equal legal conditions,” regretted Professor Kai-Oliver Schocke of the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.
His view was supported by CEO Peter Gerber of Lufthansa Cargo, who stated: “As a cargo airline, we need a level playing field for fair competition between all market players. Isolated national approaches are absolutely inimical to our competitiveness and the entire cargo industry in Germany.”
A message voiced unequivocally in direct neighborhood to Mrs Merkel’s close-by government seat.
Small pressure groups set the tone
Arno Klare, responsible for aviation matters at the Social Democrat’s parliamentary faction confirmed that the German government has a generally positive attitude towards air traffic. But the responsible federal powers react defensively to demands of aggressive minorities who bombard politicians and the press via Twitter, Facebook and other so called social media constantly with complaints about aviation noise, loudly demanding the expansion of existing night flight bans or the implementation of curfews at airports still offering 24/7 operations.
Egomania is spreading
Selfish behavior shown by a growing number of people is a general trend nowadays true to the motto: “leave me alone, bother others.” But what about those who live along highways and Autobahns linking Germany with Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands? Since FRA is closed at night, cross-border traffic of vehicles carrying cargo shipments to airports located outside Germany has multiplied. There is no survey bringing to light how much residents near major interstates are suffering from noise and exhaust gases emitted by the many trucks constantly passing by their homes.
A situation that also could happen in the opposite geographical direction. “We shouldn’t only look at our western European competitors but also to the East, where predominantly Budapest Airport but also Prague have developed into new competitors,” warned Goetz Ahmelmann, CEO of the Central German Airport Group (Leipzig/Halle, Dresden). “They are investing a lot in their ground infrastructure and will increasingly become an option for airlines who are eager to cover the East European markets.” Therefore, road feeder services leading from west to east could increase in the coming years.
Both BUD and PRG are open 24 hours a day all year round.
Lack of innovative spirit
DB Schenker’s Roland Dressler, Executive VP Airfreight Cluster Germany / Switzerland, highlighted the problem of the aggravating shortage of skilled workers in the German air freight landscape. One purposeful remedy to solve the problem is to promote digitalization and artificial intelligence at a faster pace. “What’s needed is a single electronic platform usable by all players doing business at Rhine-Main Airport,” the DB Schenker manager recommended.
He added to this that the Dakosy developed Fair&Link communication system enabling truckers bound for Frankfurt to pre-announce their shipments electronically, including booking a ramp slot in advance, is only offered by one local ground handler to its customers: LUG. Dressler speaks of a quantum leap because the neutral tool optimizes and speeds up freight processes for both import and export. “Hard to understand why LUG is the only ground handling agent at Frankfurt Airport providing the Fair&Link option,” the DB Schenker manager wonders.
To put it in a nutshell, the Berlin meeting on air freight did not produce solutions to overcome deficits or present new concepts, but was important because
- many details of the business, its current status, the achievements, its enormous economic relevance but also pressing problems came plainly to the table;
- it showed that there is consensus that the industry needs to present their contribution to the well-being of society more offensively and make their relevance transparent to each individual and also to relevant political protagonists;
- the meeting marks the beginning of a deepening dialogue between leading industry associations and representatives of the political class, which all parties involved agreed to intensify in the future.