The former Lufthansa CEO, unionist, and leading member of the German Social Democratic Party headed the Crane airline from 1982 until 1991 when it was still state-owned. It was he who
moved Lufthansa’s headquarters from Cologne to Frankfurt, and who strongly promoted flights to China, securing Lufthansa a lasting, powerful position.
Ruhnau died on Tuesday at the age of 91.
From unskilled worker and politician …
Ruhnau, born in Gdansk (the former German Danzig), Poland, started his career in business and politics as an unskilled worker after WW II. He became a member of the IG Metall labor union of metal workers, Germany’s largest and most influential trade union, where he worked his way up to become secretary of the union’s Hamburg district.
In 1965, Ruhnau succeeded Helmut Schmidt, the later German Chancellor, taking his seat as Senator (Minister) of the Interior in Hamburg. He was also appointed State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport in 1974. His responsibilities included a seat on the Lufthansa Supervisory Board, whose CEO he became in 1982.
His name is closely linked with the fate of Leipzig Airport. Under his political guidance, the way was paved for LEJ to become a global hub for integrator DHL. From 1996 to 2003, he was Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding, which includes the airports of Dresden and Leipzig/Halle in Saxony, where he pushed through LEJ’s extensive modernization and the construction of a second runway as precondition for gaining DHL Express as partner and tenant. Simultaneously, he was appointed as Lufthansa Group's Commissioner for Eastern Europe.
… to aviation visionary and man of action
At a very early stage, Ruhnau favored the construction of a mega airport south of Berlin in a scarce populated area near Sperenberg. It was his vision that - following the fall of the Berlin wall - the German capital needed a large hub with 24/7 ops, since passenger numbers were fast increasing with Berlin regaining its former leading role as the state’s political center.
However, the Federal Government led by Helmut Kohl and his Christian Democratic Party at the time torpedoed Ruhnau’s Sperenberg plans, opting to build Berlin-Brandenburg International instead. The disastrous result of the BER decision taken by the former conservative government is widely known and discussed.
Ruhnau lived a secluded life and did not comment on current issues. No quotation from him is known about BER.
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