The ban on cargo traffic in Frankfurt (CFG reported), is not an isolated case. Other European airports are also facing enormous traffic hiccups due to a lack of staff and new outbreaks of the Corona virus. However, mutual recriminations do not make the situation any better; on the contrary, they create unnecessary conflicts, says Secretary General, Michael Hoppe of the Board of Airline Representatives in Germany (BARIG). Hoppe's word carries weight. After all, his association represents the interests of 100+ national and international airlines serving Germany, including dozens of cargo airlines.
We briefly summarize some of Mr. Hoppe's key statements on the current situation in air traffic and how to react on a short-term basis.
Communication and collaboration
“Overall, we as an airline association are very pleased that traffic is returning to normal faster than anticipated. In the case of air freight, this means that pax and bellies are once again closely interlinked, at least for the vast majority of airlines that carry cargo in their lower decks.
However, the temporary embargo of freighter flights announced by the ground handling unit, BVD, of operator Fraport, is very annoying. It is absolutely counterproductive for Rhine-Main’s reputation as a reliable service provider. Especially, from our point of view, the communication about the ban was not optimal, because BVD informed the airlines and ground handling agents only shortly before the first embargo came into force last Friday evening. Our airlines would have liked to have been advised much earlier. After all, the companies affected must be given the opportunity to prepare for the bottlenecks in advance, including adjusting their flight schedules and – in the case of ground service providers – their personnel requirements to the changed conditions. They were simply taken by surprise by the BVD decision. Something like this must not happen again.”
Reasons of the two-month embargo
“The traffic mess is caused by a number of reasons, for the air traffic system is extremely complex. Currently, it is badly hit by staff shortages and an unexpectedly fast and strong comeback of passenger traffic. This applies not only to Frankfurt but to most of the larger airports throughout Europe and, to some extent, to the intercontinental hubs in North America as well. Specifically for air cargo, lockdowns in China caused by Beijing’s restrictive Covid policy, aggravated the problems. So did the closure of Russian airspace as a result of the sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. This forced airlines operating flights between Europe and the Far East, to circumvent Russian territory, taking 2 hours off additional flight time, worsening the existing imbalance between capacity supply and market demand. The situation has been further exacerbated by the sanctions on Russian carriers, as this shortfall massively aggravated the capacity shortage. To my understanding, we will have to live with the current limits for some time. The task of everyone involved is to deal with this failure-prone new normal, creatively and cooperatively.”
No blaming – join forces instead
“In the current tense situation, mutual recriminations would be counterproductive, i.e. cargo vs pax, or ground handling vs ground services. Polarization does not help in any way, and it does not solve a single issue. Instead of blaming each other, all parties involved in the airport system should further continue to join forces and strive for common solutions. Sovereign Speed's suggestion is a good example: reducing staff shortages by having a ground handling agent temporarily provide the BVD or another agent with its own employees who are dispensable in the short term, given a competitor has a great need for manpower. Of course, this is not a lasting solution, but it helps to at least cushion peaks in demand.”
New framework conditions
“The pandemic and Russia's aggression in Ukraine, are taking us out of our old reality. A completely new situation has arisen, geopolitically. In front of this battle of systems, we have to completely rethink politics and economic ties, including air transport, ocean, rail, and road services.”
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