No return to good times until 2026 for Frankfurt

Lufthansa planes parked on the tarmac of Frankfurt Airport.
Lufthansa planes parked on the tarmac of Frankfurt Airport.PHOTO: REUTERS

Germany's Frankfurt Airport does not anticipate passenger traffic to return to the pre-pandemic level of over 70 million until 2026, with operator Fraport AG saying that severe travel curbs in the United States and Asia had affected business travel in particular.

But, in terms of cargo, the airport is already handling traffic above the pre-crisis level. The airport moved 1.36 million tonnes of cargo between January and July this year, compared with 1.95 million for 2020 and 2.09 million in 2019.

"This has been achieved despite the fact that there is still a partial shortage of aircraft belly-cargo capacity due to airlines grounding some of their fleet. This underscores that Frankfurt Airport has not only maintained but even strengthened its vital function as a leading global cargo hub during the crisis," Fraport AG's deputy head of media relations and brand management Torben Beckmann told The Straits Times.

There has also been a resurgence in tourist traffic during the summer.

It was 40 per cent of pre-crisis levels over the months of June, July and August, and there has also been an extension of summer travel for some popular holiday destinations such as Greece, with solid bookings into next month.

"Nevertheless, the overall traffic situation remains very dynamic, with airlines planning their capacity at short notice. Winter is likely to be weaker again, as fewer vacation trips will be made during this period," said Mr Beckmann.

But he remains convinced that long-term growth trends in air traffic would remain intact. "Frankfurt Airport is very well positioned to benefit from these trends due to its high connectivity and excellent intermodal links (air-rail)," he said, highlighting Fraport's decision to stick to the construction of the new Terminal 3.

"It is scheduled to go into operation in 2026, when we expect to reach the pre-crisis level in terms of passenger numbers again," said Mr Beckmann.