The spread of COVID-19 continues to cause substantial constraints for international air traffic. In Düsseldorf, the current traffic volume is less than 5% of what is typical for the season. “In spite of this, we are maintaining a baseline of operations with international connections for our country,” explains Thomas Schnalke, CEO Düsseldorf Airport. “How air traffic will take shape in the coming weeks and months depends on the general situation around the pandemic and possible loosening of global travel warnings.”
Since the beginning of the crisis, Düsseldorf Airport has been in close contact with the responsible health authorities and partners. It has also created task forces to develop and execute plans and procedures, which are continuously re-evaluated and adapted as more information becomes available.
“Naturally, it is important to us to protect travellers and staff, as well as possible,” says Schnalke. “That is why – in concerted action with other airports and the industry – we are preparing a variety of measures for the terminal and gates so that minimum distances and hygiene regulations can be respected. For example, we are adapting queuing processes and applying floor markings; there will be regular announcements in the terminal to call for compliance with the measures; staff who deal with customers directly will be protected behind glass screens; and passengers and staff must be able to disinfect their hands quickly.”
Düsseldorf Airport is in a close information exchange with associations, airlines, and other airports to be able to spot developments early on. “With an eye on strategies, approaches, methods, and experiences, we are coordinating very closely with the industry. After all, this crisis is a totally new situation for everyone involved in air traffic,” Schnalke comments.
Based on current information, he believes the crisis will affect air traffic long-term. “Travel restrictions in practically all countries have been extended for now. It will probably get better in the summer and fall, but only very marginally. For the coming years, the industry is expecting air traffic to be 20-30% lower than before the pandemic. According to everything we know at this time, we have to anticipate that a return to previous traffic and passenger numbers will take several years.”