Frankfurt has a good airport

Frankfurt: world airport in hibernation

The large display board in Hall A is well filled with departure times, but nobody at Frankfurt Airport should be fooled by that. At the largest German hub, the great corona lull still prevails. With a good 400 flight movements and around 22,000 passengers per day, the international airport in November reached a level that was recorded at smaller airports such as Cologne and Hanover before the crisis.

There is really a lot of activity only in the transition building to the ICE train station, where the Centogene company operates a large center for corona tests, which also attracts many people from the surrounding area. When roughly every third flight takes place and almost 90 percent of the passengers are absent, operations purr close together: One of two passenger terminals is closed and Lufthansa has temporarily closed its administration center.

On the newest of four runways, planes are parked that no one needs at the moment, and thousands of people are trembling for their jobs. With over 80,000 employees, Rhein-Main-Airport has so far been one of the largest workplaces in Germany.

"Actually, I wanted to go through to the end ..." Luggage master Werner Jung at Frankfurt Airport.

Fraport has to cut jobs

Werner Jung and a younger colleague are waiting for bulky luggage that has to be loaded separately near the Lufthansa counter, which is not very frequented. "I still take every suitcase with me," says the 61-year-old baggage master, who only has to work for a few weeks for the airport operator Fraport. "Actually, I wanted to go through to the end, but then the severance offer was a good fit." Jung is one of the older employees for whom the Corona crisis ultimately brought adequate early retirement because their employer urgently needs to cut jobs.

Long-term employees at Fraport and also at Lufthansa are in fact non-terminable, the companies depend on the cooperation of the individual, knows Verdi unionist Mathias Venema. They are protected by collective bargaining regulations that date back to when today's stock corporations were still part of the public sector. The majority of Fraport is still in public hands, and the state has also stepped in again as the savior of Lufthansa.

With both job heavyweights, the possibilities of short-time working are being exhausted, severance payments are being offered and new part-time models are being negotiated with the unions. During the crisis, Lufthansa has already cut around 30,000 jobs, especially abroad, or outsourced them with the sale of the catering subsidiary LSG. Fraport is relying on severance payments, early retirement and partial retirement to cut around 4,000 of 22,000 jobs.

Sadness instead of luxury - a row of shops at the airport

More than 200 employees of the service company Wisag can only dream of this: Shortly before Christmas, they received the dismissals, which are now being disputed before the labor court. The hopes for similarly lucrative severance payments as at Fraport were quickly dashed with the private company with lower tariff conditions. Before that, contract workers and temporary employees had to leave the airport, but Verdi does not know the exact number either.

Only the cargo area is buzzing

Trade unionist Venema is happy that at least the freight area is buzzing, because dozens of freight forwarders and small service providers with numerous employees operate in the halls, who ensure, among other things, that corona vaccine can be distributed internationally.

Many jobs are also on hold in the terminals: gray dreariness reigns in the otherwise well-frequented snack areas and shopping malls with their luxury brands. Fraport spokesman Torben Beckmann reports that there has not yet been a wave of layoffs in stores. This is also due to the fact that when the times are good, the airport is involved in the retailer's turnover, so now it is contributing to the failures. The Fraport man assures us that a sensible solution has always been found for the remaining base rents. After all, the brand manufacturers wanted to keep their locations.

100 square meters of empty restaurant in Terminal 1 of the airport

The metal rolling grilles on the shops have not been moved for weeks, only a few shops have opened in the shopping ghost train: a pharmacy or a snack bar like the "Lucalino". There Hatim Jamai is standing alone in front of a counter with a few pieces of pizza and sandwiches to take away. He has been working here for two and a half years, and the shop is usually buzzing at lunchtime, even though many airport employees take a break here. But the large seating area with well over 100 seats remains closed due to the pandemic. "I don't know how long this will take," says Jamai and shrugs.

There are fewer such worries among the authorities represented at the airport. Customs is dealing with the consequences of Brexit and the Federal Police are dealing with an astonishingly large amount of day-to-day business: "Unfortunately, the number of criminal offenses has not decreased as much as that of passengers," says spokesman Reza Ahmari. And the frequently changed travel regulations as a result of the corona pandemic led to more than 100,000 specific inquiries to the office, which had to set up its own corona coordination staff. But there was still enough air to send some of the 2500 or so police officers to Frankfurt Central Station or Stuttgart for support.