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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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.