Salzburg Airport on the road to recovery despite legacy issues and weather service debate

Salzburg Airport (Photo: Salzburg Airport Presse).
Salzburg Airport (Photo: Salzburg Airport Presse).

Salzburg Airport on the road to recovery despite legacy issues and weather service debate

Salzburg Airport (Photo: Salzburg Airport Presse).
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Salzburg Airport is showing a clear recovery from the pandemic-related slump and is presenting impressive figures for the past year. With around 1,61 million passengers handled last year, the airport recorded an increase of 31,3 percent compared to the previous year.

Managing Director Bettina Ganghofer is optimistic about the future and is aiming for a further increase to 1,66 million passengers this year, which is close to the pre-crisis level of 1,84 million passengers.

Impact of the pandemic on personnel and investments

However, the pandemic has not only affected passenger numbers, but also the number of employees. During the crisis, there were no replacements despite retirements, which had an impact on the airport's operations. However, almost all positions have now been filled again. Financially, the airport was able to record a consolidated annual profit of around 3,4 million euros, of which around six million euros went into investments.

Contaminated sites: PFAS firefighting foam contamination

One big unknown for the future remains the remediation of contaminated sites. The use of PFAS firefighting foam in previous fire drills contaminated the groundwater around the airport. Research into the remediation of these contaminated sites is still in its early stages, and the exact extent and costs of the necessary measures are still unclear.

Debate about aviation weather services: safety concerns and criticism

Another challenge is the planned conversion of weather services to remote observation. The Austrian air traffic control agency Austro Control plans to deliver all meteorological forecasts and warnings for the federal state airports exclusively from Vienna-Schwechat from July 1st. This means that the local experts will lose their jobs or have to move to Vienna.

Kajetan Uriach, regional director of the Vida union in Salzburg, sharply criticized these plans. He pointed to additional risks in flight operations due to climate change and emphasized that local meteorologists provide important information that cannot be adequately replaced by automated systems. Uriach even threatened to file a complaint with the public prosecutor's office for "imminent danger" if Austro Control stuck to the plans.

Austro Control: Automation as an international standard

Austro Control defends the change and emphasizes that automation is an international standard and has already proven itself. At other Austrian airports such as Linz, Graz and Klagenfurt, flight meteorology is already operated centrally from Vienna-Schwechat. In addition, the meteorologists have been intensively trained in the local conditions in Salzburg and Innsbruck in order to take the specific topographical conditions into account.

Demands for local weather service and political reactions

However, the Vida union continues to demand local weather observation and experts for forecasts, especially at airports in Alpine regions. It criticizes the Salzburg state government, which has so far done little to maintain the aviation weather service in Salzburg. The change could lead to a large number of diverted or canceled flights, which would result in high additional costs and increased environmental pollution.

However, the Ministry of Transport counters that remote operations in Salzburg have been running successfully for more than two years and that no incidents have occurred during this time. The meteorological systems meet the highest technological requirements and international standards, according to the ministry.

Salzburg Airport is well on the road to recovery after the tough years of the pandemic, but is facing challenges from legacy issues and the debate about changing weather services. While passenger numbers are rising and investments are being made, the future of aviation meteorology and its impact on safety and flight operations remains a controversial topic. The next few months will show how these challenges can be overcome.

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