Corona crisis: Ryanair wants to save with a corona crisis

Photo: Thomas Frey / dpa

The extensive standstill in air traffic due to the corona pandemic is leaving deep traces in the industry. Between April and June, Ryanair made a loss of 185 million euros, as the low-cost airline announced on Monday. In the same period of the previous year it was still 243 million euros in profit. With job destruction, site closures and the backing of the EU Commission, the group management is doing everything it can to overcome the recent slump in sales and passenger numbers, to aggressively strengthen its market position and to emerge from the events as a crisis winner against all opposition. The war chest is filled to the brim.

For example, reports of Ryanair management’s confrontation with the unions are causing a stir. CEO Michael O’Leary demands massive salary cuts by at least a third and rigorous job cuts. His concept is classic fire-and-hire policy: fire and hire again in much worse conditions. The majority of the pilots employed by Ryanair’s subsidiary Malta Air have rejected an austerity dictation by the Ryanair bosses, according to the Pilots Association Cockpit (VC). The key issues were the demands for extreme flexibility, drastically reduced working hours and incomes as well as high productivity increases.

O’Leary would not be O’Leary if he did not try everything in the crisis to wipe out the concessions to the unions won in tough strikes and push all standards down further. The recently announced closure of the bases at Frankfurt-Hahn im Hunsrück, Weeze am Niederrhein and Berlin-Tegel airports in autumn could serve as a means of pressure to force employees to surrender, the Verdi union suspects. Since March, temporary and temporary employees have been fired. Verdi negotiator Sven Bergelin attests to Ryanair the “cynicism of a group that makes profits with dumping prices on the backs of its employees”. Negotiations were postponed last week.

One of the effects of the Federal Government’s latest rescue package for the battered Lufthansa is the EU Commission’s requirement that Lufthansa now hand over some take-off and landing rights (slots) to the competition at the hub airports in Frankfurt am Main and Munich. This is in line with the intentions of the Ryanair managers, who have been conquering the largest German airport in Frankfurt for years and have kept an eye on these slots. Hessian state politicians and the airport operator Fraport come a long way to meet them. Despite the Corona slumps, a new Terminal 3 is currently being built in the southern airport area, tailored to low-cost airlines such as Ryanair. It should be ready by 2024 at the latest and enable an additional 25 million passengers to be handled annually.

Regional airports such as Frankfurt-Hahn or Weeze, which as Ryanair locations have attracted crowds of tourists since the turn of the millennium, could soon be left behind. The Irish airline initially targeted low-cost former military airports in conquering the liberalized European aviation markets since the 1990s and systematically increased its market share with bargain offers. Hahn Airport, which had been cleared by the US Army in the early 1990s, was long regarded as a successful project to convert former military areas into a structurally weak region under the former Rhineland-Palatinate SPD Prime Minister Kurt Beck. Ryanair set up a hub here and many employees live here with their families.

But the paint is long gone. Critics point to the too high airport density in the region, especially since the airports of Frankfurt am Main, Cologne / Bonn, Saarbrücken and Luxembourg are just over 100 kilometers away as the crow flies. Passenger numbers and cargo handling have also been descending for years. So the hopes for a sustainable job engine did not materialize. Old plans for a connection to the railways are buried. With the threat of a withdrawal, Ryanair repeatedly blackmailed the loss-making airport operator and the state government of Mainz, which a few years ago sold its 82.5 percent stake in the operating company to the large Chinese company HNA. It continues to subsidize operations with millions of dollars. HNA focuses primarily on the global freight business and sees Hahn as a strategic base in Europe. After all, Hunsrück Airport is one of the few German commercial airports without a night flight ban.

After closing the base, individual Ryanair aircraft could still land and take off in Hahn. But the decline is likely to continue. In addition to Ryanair, only the Eastern European low-cost providers Wizz Air, Air Serbia and Flyone fly to the Hunsrück. The fact that cargo planes with protective clothing and mouth-nose protection landed on board here in the corona crisis is not a sustainable new business field. For the Prime Minister of Malu Dreyer (SPD) in Mainz, this means an additional construction site eight months before the state election.