OPINION: Moving forward together

By focusing on restoring passenger confidence to use air travel and implementing best practices, airlines and airports can get passengers flying again sooner.

By Jörgen Kearsley, Hamburg Airport aviation marketing general manager

HAM_sqLike everyone else, we’ve had to change how we work. Our hours have been reduced by 80% to keep costs down and we’re all working from home offices. I think we’re all missing human contact; it’s something we easily take for granted and value it more than ever right now.  

We’re missing opportunities to meet with our airline partners face-to-face as practically all meeting events have been postponed. However, we’re communicating with airlines via phone, emails and video conferences. It feels good to connect in these challenging times and to stand together as we are all facing the same problems. 

There is a general passion to move forward, to be creative and tackle the situation. It’s a frustrating time but an exciting one too. There is so much change within our industry and even more to come.

We’ve been trying to keep the airlines informed about the situation in Germany and in our market. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment about when capacity will return, especially if travel bans are not lifted simultaneously across Europe.

Of course, we also get emails and letters from airlines asking for vast rebates to stimulate the markets with low prices. But airports have also been hit by the imposed travel restrictions and are more or less in a similar financial situation to the airlines. I am not too sure if haggling over rebates should be our main priority at the moment considering the circumstances that are at stake.

In my opinion, we should focus on restoring passenger confidence to use air travel. It looks as if many people would rather simply stay at home or drive by car to a nearby destination for safety reasons.

In Germany, airlines and airports are currently working on a proposal for new hygiene regulations that will be proposed to the government. From the customer perspective, this addresses the experience along the whole passenger journey—at the airport, on board the aircraft and ultimately at the destination.

Once the new hygiene measures are in place, we should work with the airlines shoulder to shoulder on the best and most efficient ways to inform and to convince our customers that it is safe to fly again. This won’t be easy as the measures will have to satisfy the concerns of health experts and passengers, as well as meeting industry concerns on practicality and cost.

We’re working on a number of scenarios regarding when traffic will fully return. The best-case scenario is 2022 and the worst case is probably about two years longer. Although they are just forecasts at this stage, they are helping us to make sure the business is fit for the future.

Hamburg is a strong market, both from the business as well as the leisure perspective. Therefore, we strongly believe that our market will recover in the medium- to long-term.

Photo credit: Hamburg Airport