Cologne Bonn Airport

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Quick take-off for the airport after the pandemic


In spite of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Cologne Bonn Airport completed the 2021 financial year better than expected and earned a much better annual result than in 2020. Although it is still minus 14.5 million euros, the loss was more than halved in comparison to the previous year (2020: EUR -31.1 million). “Thanks to the efforts of the whole team, the airport is coming out of the crisis well. Both traffic segments have developed positively this year, with the result that the company will return to profit in 2022,” says Thilo Schmid, President and CEO of Flughafen Köln/Bonn GmbH. “This year, our focus will be on consistently pursuing our sustainability activities.”

With its business model of passenger traffic and cargo, Cologne Bonn greatly increased its economic results in the last financial year. It ended with an annual result that was more than EUR 10 million better than planned (plan: EUR -24.7 million). In the last financial year, sales revenues rose by more than 18 per cent to EUR 246.3 million (2020: EUR 208.4 million). “With increases in revenue and strict cost discipline, revenue falls in passenger traffic were largely compensated for. Our results improvement programme, which we successfully started before the pandemic, continues to be the guarantee for our business success,” says Chief Financial Officer Torsten Schrank. In spite of the pandemic, the airport was one of the few German airports to consistently earn a positive operative result (EBITDA) in the amount of EUR 32.6 million in what was now the second year of the pandemic. In 2020 the EBITDA was EUR 6.1 million. “In economic terms, the airport is making very good progress,” says Schrank.

The cargo business - an important stabiliser in the pandemic - once again developed superbly in 2021 and with 986,000 tonnes (+14%) actually set a new annual record. The airport thus once again demonstrated what an outstanding role it played in the pandemic in supplying people and companies in the Rhineland. In passenger traffic, the first half of 2021 was difficult, but this was followed by a visible recovery from the middle of the year. But ultimately, the figures were well below expectations. In total, 4.3 million passengers used the airport (+38%) - around a third of the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

However, following a dampener at the start of the year due to the omicron wave, the recovery trend in passenger traffic continued in 2022. Further recovery is expected in the summer months ahead. The airport assumes that the passenger numbers will more than double in 2022 and rise to around 9 million. And there are major targets in cargo: “We are optimistic that we will be able to break through the one-million tonne barrier,” Thilo Schmid says.

School holidays to see more than 1 million passengers

In the summer, there will once again be just under 1,000 take-offs per week - almost as many as before the pandemic. 23 airlines fly from Cologne Bonn to 117 destinations in 34 different countries. In the summer, there are likely to be months with more than 1 million passengers again - for the first time since October 2019. In the school holidays, the airport is expecting 1.75 million travellers, which is approx. 86 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. On individual days, the volume will actually be above the pre-pandemic levels. The most popular destinations are Spain, Turkey, Greece and other tourist destinations.

Additional measures for the summer season

Increased travel and associated ramping up of all of the processes, involving many service providers and authorities, is presenting the aviation sector with major operational challenges. “We have implemented many measures and are cooperating intensively with all of the partners. We have also hired additional staff for ground handling services,” says Thilo Schmid. Thus, the team has been increased by around 100 new employees in comparison to summer 2021. Furthermore, around 80 more employees are currently in the middle of the hiring process, waiting for security checks that are required in aviation. 

Cologne Bonn Airport is supporting all involved in the process to the best of its ability. For example, an additional service provider is deployed in the terminal on behalf of the airport, who supports passengers before boarding pass checks to provide assistance to the security checks carried out by the Federal Police. Moreover, a communications centre has been set up for the Federal Police, ground handling and air traffic control for optimum coordination of the processes. In cooperation with the airlines, flight schedules have been straightened out as far as possible to mitigate traffic peaks. “The situation in aviation is very challenging for the entire sector and its service providers, in particular because of the tight situation on the labour market. We are doing everything to organise and control all of the processes in the best possible way. Nevertheless, waiting times, especially at peak travel times, will not always be avoidable. We ask passengers to come to the airport early and well prepared,” says Thilo Schmid.

Lively activity in the non-aviation sector

The new lounge, which opened last September, is already being extended due to its popularity. Whereas to date, the upper storey with 65 seats was used, the lounge is now being extended with a lower floor and another 95 seats. In the late summer, a pharmacy is scheduled to open in Terminal 1. In June, there will be an invitation to tender for duty-free shops at the airport. 

Expansion of sustainability activities

This year, too, the airport will continue to invest in sustainability. At the start of the year, the airport tightened its climate goals. By 2035, only emission-free vehicles will drive on the apron and the airport is to be climate-neutral by 2045. The further expansion of photovoltaics at the airport is also planned. Systems costing around EUR 3 million are to be installed on buildings in the years ahead. And a biomass heating and power station is also to be built on the campus. “Sustainability is one of our strategic duties that we are continuing to pursue consistently,” says Schmid.

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