Coronavirus: Frankfurt Airport operator to slash jobs as air traffic plummets

Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport said Tuesday that it plans to shed nearly one-fifth of its workforce, after air traffic plummeted in the second quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus: Frankfurt Airport operator to slash jobs as air traffic plummets
A traffic sign from Fraport at Frankfurt's airport.

The German company plans to cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs out of around 22,000 across Fraport's Group companies.

Passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport, Germany's busiest, fell 94.4 percent year-on-year in the three months to the end of June.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus pandemic-hit Lufthansa to cut 22,000 jobs

At Fraport's Group airports worldwide, which also include Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport and Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, “passenger traffic came to a virtual standstill in the second quarter,” the company said.

Only Lima Airport, in Peru, made a positive contribution to the group's financial performance.

“The economic effects of the pandemic will be felt well beyond the current year and permanently change our industry,” Fraport's chief executive Stefan Schulte said.

“We are therefore aligning our plans with the 'new normal' that we expect to reach by 2022/23. From this new starting point, we expect moderate long-term growth again,” he added.

Even in 2022/23, passenger volumes at Frankfurt Airport are expected to be 15 to 20 percent lower than 2019, the company said.

The recovery of passenger numbers into the start of the third quarter has been “agonisingly slow,” according to analysts at Berenberg. “We expected weak momentum here given Fraport's exposure to business traffic and intercontinental passengers, but the reality may still disappoint.”

Revenue fell 48.9 percent compared with the same period of 2019 to €910.6 million, Fraport said.

The company posted a net loss of €231.4 million, down from a profit of €164.9 million in the same period of the previous year.

In the second quarter, more than two-thirds of Fraport's employees were put on shorter hours, according to Fraport, with working hours reduced by around 60 percent across the workforce.

READ ALSO: German firms apply for Kurzarbeit for nearly 12 million workers affected by pandemic

“We responded quickly and comprehensively to the crisis and were thus able to lower costs with immediate effect. But this will not be enough in the medium term… We must therefore streamline and downsize our company to make it even more efficient,”  Schulte said.

However, in a sign of optimism, the company is continuing the expansion of Frankfurt Airport with the construction of Terminal 3.

“We believe that people will continue to want to travel and explore the world. We are confident that aviation will rebound as a growing market in the future,” Schulte said.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.