For various reasons, Stuttgart Airport lost several low-cost carriers during the corona crisis. This is having an extremely negative effect on the recovery in passenger numbers, because Baden-Württemberg Airport is recovering much more slowly than comparable airports in Germany.
Apart from the Palma de Mallorca route and Turkey and Kosovo routes, there is little to no competition on many routes from Stuttgart. The affected destinations are only served by one carrier or one group of companies. As a result, the prices are sometimes significantly higher than from comparable German airports on whose routes there is competition.
Until shortly before the beginning of the corona pandemic, many things were different in Stuttgart. Low-cost airlines such as Lauda, Easyjet, Blue Air and other providers active in this segment created competition on many routes, which top dog Eurowings had to accept. The result: In 2019, the state airport had more passengers than ever before. However, the record at that time could not be celebrated for long, because from March 2020 aviation generally went downhill steeply, because within a few days the industry came to a virtual standstill almost everywhere in the world.
Low costers have withdrawn
Lauda said goodbye to Stuttgart Airport in the 2020 summer flight schedule. The official justification at the time was that the staff voted against wage cuts. Although this was waved through in Düsseldorf, it did not save the jobs either, because there the closure was justified by the fact that the airport and ground handling belonged to the Irish low-cost group price would not have been appropriate.
Easyjet said goodbye from Stuttgart Airport much more quietly. Before the pandemic, for example, Palma de Mallorca, Berlin-Tegel and destinations in Italy and the United Kingdom were in the portfolio. The expected resumption then turned into a goodbye, because they withdrew completely from Stuttgart. Incidentally, the orange low-cost airline has also withdrawn from Vienna, Austria, where the EU offshoot is formally based.
Blue Air was mainly active in Romania traffic from Stuttgart. This carrier actually had no intention of withdrawing from Germany, but the money ran out. Romanian authorities, creditors and lessors pulled the plug, leaving the low coster with no other choice cease flight operations and file for bankruptcy.
Airline shrinkage with financial consequences
Only Vueling and Volotea still offer flights within the EU from Stuttgart in the low-cost segment. In terms of price, Eurowings positions itself from Stuttgart on those routes on which there are no competitors, not as a low-cost airline. For example, in the direction of Turkey and Egypt, some providers are engaged in a tough price war on certain routes.
The bottom line, however, is that Stuttgart Airport lacks those passengers that Lauda, Easyjet and Blue Air, for example, had. Many of these seem to either switch to the airports of Memmingen, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden or Munich or stay at home. In any case, the first two airports mentioned have recovered from the corona pandemic much faster, which is also due to the comparatively high presence of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air.
The state government of Baden-Württemberg, which controls Stuttgart Airport, does not think much of boosting passenger numbers for ideological reasons. It is therefore not to be expected that the price screw will be turned in order to ensure more competition, lower prices and consequently more passengers.
Profitable before the pandemic, no profits on the horizon now
Airport boss Ulrich Heppe told the DPA, among other things, that he does not expect the airport he manages to reach the record value of 2019 in the near future. This could possibly succeed between 2028 and 2030. The missing passengers also have a negative effect on the finances, because Stuttgart is deep in the red. The manager does not expect to return to profitability until 2026 at the earliest. Before the pandemic, the state airport was considered highly profitable.
In the record year of 2019, Stuttgart Airport was used by around 12,7 million travelers. Last year there were 8,3 million passengers and for the current year Heppe expects nine million passengers at the most. The whole of Germany is lagging behind the Europe-wide recovery in air traffic, but Stuttgart - in direct comparison with comparable airports in the Federal Republic - particularly so. Heppe told the DPA that this airport could not operate profitably with less than ten million passengers. So you will have to come up with something that will ensure that the former "money printing machine" does not become a permanent money-destroying machine. Sooner or later the state government, which is headed in green, will also have to recognize that solutions must also be found that go beyond ideology.