Air traffic control expects slow recovery of air traffic

German air traffic control expects only a slow recovery of air traffic after the Corona crisis.

This year, according to a planning scenario, 80 percent of the previous year’s figures would no longer be reached in a monthly comparison, explained DFS CEO Klaus-Dieter Scheurle in Langen near Frankfurt.

He also said that next year would not see the 2019 level of 3.334 million controlled aircraft movements, but possibly as much as 85 percent of it.

Currently, air traffic controllers control only about 15 percent of the usual traffic volumes due to numerous flight and entry restrictions.

Scheurle expects traffic flights to slowly increase again starting in May. For the year as a whole, this would result in a halving of air traffic compared to 2019, he said. In the medium term, he expects a decline in business travel. The slump will cause economic problems for small airports in particular.

After significant controller bottlenecks, especially in the summer of 2018, higher capacity requirements in German airspace are no longer expected for years to come, said the DFS CEO.

For this reason, the air navigation service provider has concluded a "Corona collective agreement" with its in-house trade union GdF, on the basis of which 300 hours of reduced work can be ordered for each controller and technician. Only half of these hours will have to be made up in the coming years.

The scheme is more flexible than short-time work, which is to be avoided in the core business, Scheurle said. But in the medium term, he said, staff will be reduced through attrition and airspace will become more efficient through digitization and reorganization. To this end, the regulation of air traffic control would have to be reformed by the EU Commission. "The time of five-year plans must be over," demanded the DFS CEO.

According to Scheurle, the federally owned company has so far had ten proven cases of corona in its ranks, four of whom have already recovered. After a tower controller in Munich was found to have the disease at the beginning of March, the entire shift was sent into quarantine. In principle, DFS believes it is well equipped to maintain air navigation services as a critical infrastructure of the German government, with a large number of pandemic measures in place.

In the past fiscal year, the company increased its sales only marginally by 0.3 percent to 1.18 billion euros. With fees falling and personnel costs rising, it was mainly outside contracts and training opportunities that brought in additional revenue. DFS reported a bottom-line profit of €35.6 million, compared with a loss of €30.1 million in the previous year. In the current year, the company expects a revenue shortfall of about €500 million due to the Corona crisis.

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