Like hardly any other industry, aviation is particularly hard hit by restrictions that have been and are being issued by governments around the corona crisis. Every travel warning leads to a further decline in the number of bookings for airlines. The IATA is now also placing short-term hopes on corona rapid tests. Bettina Ganghofer, Managing Director of Salzburg Airport, explains in an interview with Aviation.Direct that this makes sense if it makes flying more attractive again.
The manager is Austria's only female number one at a commercial airport and runs the second largest airport in the Alpine republic in terms of passenger numbers. Bettina Ganghofer's heart beats for aviation. The manager can look back on many years of experience, including working for Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG, before she landed in the executive chair at Salzburg Airport around three years ago. According to the motto “Ladies First”, Salzburg will of course kick off the new Aviation.Direct mini-series.
Today I don't know what to expect tomorrow - when I return to my home country - this uncertainty is terrible and will cause massive damage to the entire aviation industry for many years to come.Bettina Ganghofer, managing director of Salzburg Airport.
Aviation.Direct: What steps must governments and the EU take to enable the aviation and tourism industries to survive and make a comeback?
Bettina Ganghofer: The current order of the day is above all an EU-wide standardization of travel regulations and uniform border management. At the moment, every country has different rules - this unsettles the entire travel industry and makes it almost impossible to reliably plan a vacation or a business trip. We in aviation are of course the first to feel this uncertainty and unpredictability. Travel urgently needs to become easier again. Today I don't know what to expect tomorrow - when I return to my home country - this uncertainty is terrible and will cause massive damage to the entire aviation industry for many years to come. The recovery phase will take a very long time and I don't think that we can really talk about "normal states" again before 2024.
Aviation.Direct: Some airlines and the IATA argue that quick tests should be carried out before departure. This could be done, for example, during the security check. What do you think of performing quick tests before every departure and how could they be implemented for you?
Bettina Ganghofer: I can imagine the idea of performing quick tests before departure if it makes flying more attractive again. However, these quick tests are only useful for flights to those countries whose entry regulations require a negative test to be submitted. If these specifications should come, we will react to them and support fast, uncomplicated tests at the airport. We already have a COVID test station at the airport that our guests can use.
Aviation.Direct: Please describe a little how you and your employees experienced the sudden quasi-standstill in aviation and what feelings and thoughts did you have?
Bettina Ganghofer: The 2019/2020 winter season in Salzburg was almost over when the media started reporting on the first Covid 19 cases in Europe. A global pandemic of this magnitude could not yet be expected at this point in time! Here in Salzburg, as in the rest of Europe, flight frequencies were first thinned, then more and more cancellations came and the first borders were closed. Finally, global air traffic came to a standstill almost entirely. Shortly before Salzburg Airport had to switch to stand-by operation, only the Düsseldorf connection with Eurowings remained. When this was also set, it became very quiet. The thoughts were probably the same for me and my employees - hopefully the spook will soon be over and we can quickly get back to normal operations. Today we know that aviation will have to struggle with the consequences of COVID 19 for a long time to come.
Aviation.Direct: How was the mood when the air traffic gradually started up again?
Bettina Ganghofer: Inwardly, I cheered and was happy - even though I always knew that, despite all optimism, caution should be exercised, because the past has shown that there are waves and cloudiness. Unfortunately, we had to experience that with the West Balkan routes operated by our airline partner WIZZ. In the middle of the crisis, it was an absolute stroke of luck to be able to win a new airline for Salzburg Airport - and then came the West Balkans shutdown ... We are all now hoping for a vaccine and medication against the Covid 19 virus to help ourselves the aviation industry can recover significantly.