Frankfurt-Hahn Airport GmbH, belonging to the Chinese HNA Group (82.5%) and the federal state of Hesse (17.5%), has filed for insolvency. Managing Director, Christoph Goetzmann, confirmed that the insolvency application had been submitted to a District Court in nearby Bad Kreuznach. The court appointed Frankfurt lawyer, Jan Markus Plathner, as provisional insolvency administrator.
The eventful history of Hahn Airport seems to be coming to an end. It was originally founded as base for combat aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force, converted to a commercial airfield after
the cold war, taken over by Fraport, and later acquired by the Chinese HNA Group. Now its lights are about to go out, resulting in massive job losses.
Cargo yields could not compensate for pax losses
It is not the fact, but the timing of Hahn’s bankruptcy that comes as surprise, since the airport recently benefitted from the boom in e-commerce as well as additional cargo flights resulting from container bottlenecks in maritime traffic. Overall, the air freight business was doing quite well in recent months, as demonstrated by Silkway West B747 freighter flights, among others. Wolfgang Meier, CEO & President Silkway Group, declined to comment, but indicated indirectly that his airline would keep on flying to Hahn for the time being. So far, the flight activities continue without limitations.
Overall, however, air freight was unable to compensate for the sharp decline in passenger business, which had already slumped prior to COVID-19. Hahn once handled up to 4 million passengers annually. However, their number went steadily south after prime customer Ryanair decided to change its strategy by withdrawing from regional airports and relocating most flights to larger hubs.
Optimistic predictions have vaporized
Only weeks ago, Managing Director Goetzmann assured that, under his guidance, Hahn would be maneuvered through the corona pandemic without having to apply for further state subsidies, nor having to introduce short time work. Despite this rather optimistic statement, management expects red figures for fiscal 2020. A financial turnaround leading to a positive consolidated annual result was forecasted for 2024 at the earliest, depending on the further course of the pandemic. After that, airports located within the EU are generally no longer allowed to receive state aid under EU law.
Hahn is located about 125 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt Rhine-Main Airport, but is called Frankfurt-Hahn Airport for marketing reasons. In April 1999, the first Ryanair jetliner landed at the airport, heralding “a new age of air traffic” for the entire nation - that of low-cost traveling. Air Cargo Germany was incepted and based there, and Aeroflot Cargo operated freighter aircraft, connecting Hahn with Moscow. More recently, airlines had serviced 30 passenger routes to and from Hahn. According to the operator, more than 2,000 people work at the airport. Their jobs are now at stake.
The takeover by HNA led to disaster
Market observers believe that Hahn’s financial woes are a late consequence of the insolvency of its Chinese parent company, with creditors seeking US$ 187 billion from the bankrupt HNA Group. The assets HNA holds in Hahn could now be included in the insolvency estate.
Hahn is the second German airport, purchased by Chinese, to go bankrupt. Previously, it was Parchim in northeastern Germany, owned by the Chinese Jonathan Pang, which filed for insolvency in August 2019.
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