Düsseldorf Airport CEO chats to us: “the crisis will affect air traffic long-term”
Düsseldorf International had 33.5 million seats last year, up 5.1% YOY.
We talk to Thomas Schnalke, its CEO, about COVID-19 and what it is doing about it.
anna.aero (AA): What has been the measurable impact of COVID-19 on Düsseldorf?
Thomas Schnalke (TS): The spread of the Corona pandemic continues to cause substantial constraints for international air traffic. Düsseldorf’s current traffic volume is less than five percent of what is typical for this season. Despite this, we are maintaining a baseline of operations with international connections for our country. How air traffic will take shape in the coming weeks and months depends on the general situation around the Corona pandemic and possible loosening of global travel warnings.
AA: What disruption/crisis management initiatives have been implemented at
Düsseldorf as a result of COVID-19?
TS: We have been in close contact with the responsible health authorities and partners. In addition, we created task forces that develop and execute plans and procedures and continuously re-evaluate and adapt them as we have more information.
It is important that we protect travellers and staff as well as possible. This is why, in concerted action with other airports and the industry generally, we are preparing a variety of measures for the terminal and gates so that minimum distances and hygiene regulations can be respected. For example:
- Adapting queuing processes and applying floor markings
- There will be regular announcements in the terminal to call for compliance with the measures
- Staff who deal with customers directly will be protected behind glass screens
- Passengers and staff must be able to disinfect their hands quickly.
AA: In terms of knowledge-sharing, what can other airports learn from the experience at Düsseldorf and how you have responded to the crisis?
TS: We are in close exchange with associations, airlines, and other airports to be able to spot developments early on. With an eye on strategies, approaches, methods, and experiences, we are coordinating very closely with the industry. After all, this crisis is a totally new situation for everyone involved in air traffic.
AA: What insights can you share about what you expect to happen next?
TS: Based on current information, the crisis will affect air traffic long-term. Travel restrictions in practically all countries have been extended for now. It will probably get better in the summer and fall, but only very marginally. For the coming years, the industry is expecting air traffic to be 20-to-30 percent lower than before the pandemic.
AA: Are you able to share any medium or long-term projections about the recovery of airport traffic following the COVID-19 crisis?
TS: The cutbacks are massive. The entire aviation industry has been affected by the decline in traffic, and the effects will be long-term. According to everything we know at this time, we have to anticipate that a return to previous traffic and passenger numbers will take several years.