COLOGNE/BONN The low-cost airline Ryanair has cancelled the connection from Cologne/Bonn Airport to Berlin-Schönefeld. The company confirmed this on GA request. It was the last domestic German connection.
Ryanair is withdrawing from domestic air traffic. Starting with the winter timetable in November, the low-cost airline has cut its last connection –between Cologne/Bonn and Berlin-Schönefeld. This was confirmed by the Irish airline on request. “Our Cologne-Berlin-Schönefeld route will not be served this winter”, said a spokesperson.
Last year, Ryanair had already reduced the number of flights between Cologne and Berlin. In the current flight schedule, there are still a maximum of two flights a day, and only on working days. The capital is primarily served from Cologne by its competitors Eurowings and Easyjet, which offer a much more regular service. During the week, up to 19 aircraft per day take off for Berlin from Cologne outside the holiday season – whereby Eurowings and Easyjet do not fly to Schoenefeld, but to Tegel.
Ryanair’s Berlin service in Cologne already played only a minor role in last winter’s flight schedule. “Out of a total of 126 slots per week in winter, only ten were allocated to Ryanair”, said a spokeswoman for Cologne/Bonn Airport on request. “In the current summer flight schedule, Ryanair serves eight out of 118 Berlin routes”. No information was available on Friday concerning to what extent the loss will be compensated from next winter. The connection is important for commuters between the seat of government in Berlin and Bonn. Civil servants booked 229,116 domestic flights last year. In 2018, a total of about 1.5 million passengers travelled the Berlin route, according to Cologne/Bonn Airport.
Cheap airline in trouble
Rynair is currently struggling with a difficult environment. Recently, cheap tickets, rising kerosene prices and personnel costs put pressure on the low-cost airline’s profits. In the past financial year to the end of March, profits fell by 29 per cent compared to the previous year; the bottom line for Ryanair was around one billion euros in 2018/2019. In the first quarter of the current financial year from April to the end of June, profits fell by 21 per cent from last year to 243 million euros. In addition, the flight ban on Boeing’s medium-haul jet 737 Max has put hundreds of jobs in jeopardy.
The company needs about 1,500 fewer pilots and flight attendants than planned, the news agency Bloomberg quoted from a video message by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary. The airline already has more than 500 pilots and about 400 flight attendants too many. A further 600 positions that Ryanair wanted to fill for the coming summer will not now be needed. Another reason is the uncertainty caused by the planned departure of the UK from the EU, which is depressing demand. “In the coming weeks we will try to keep job cuts to a minimum”, said O’Leary. The airline has cancelled its growth plans due to Boeing’s halted deliveries. By the summer of 2020 it expects to receive only 30 aircraft instead of the planned 58 jets of this type.
Discussion about domestic flights
Meanwhile, a discussion about domestic flights has flared up in Germany against the background of climate change. “By 2035, we want to make rail the faster, more comfortable and cheaper alternative on almost all domestic German routes and into neighbouring countries”, stipulates a position paper of the Green party co-written by Darmstadt member of parliament Daniela Wagner, among others. This articulates the dilemma: the German high-speed rail network is currently not in a position to offer attractive nationwide alternatives to air travel.
The Green Party’s proposals would significantly increase the price of flights within Germany’s borders. They criticise that the costs of airline tickets are currently kept artificially low by subsidies. Fuel and sales taxes as well as a hefty CO2 tax, with simultaneous easing of the burden for rail customers and additional billions provided for the expansion of the rail network, should accelerate the switch in transportation types. More reliability and a better rail service are also implied.
The German Air Transport Association (BDL), however, has warned against national CO2 stand-alone projects and would rather invest taxpayers’ money in the long-term synthetic aviation fuel project, which could replace the fossil-fuel kerosene. Domestic flights are not to be abandoned across the board, but the volume only shifted to the railways, where very fast rail connections are available as an alternative.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, 23.5 million domestic passengers flew in 2018. (with material from dpa)
(Original text: Dominik Pieper, Ulla Thiede, translation John Chandler)