2020 was the hardest year in Hamburg Airport’s post-war history. The coronavirus pandemic struck the economically sound airport like a lightning bolt, bringing operations to a complete standstill at times and resulting in traffic levels that barely matched those of the 1980s, with around 4.56 million passengers. This was 26.3 percent of the passenger volume seen in 2019. Despite these challenging circumstances, the airlines maintained the variety within the Hamburg route network with up to 70 direct routes still in place. The coronavirus restrictions are shaping the start of the new year.
In 2020, 4.56 million passengers used Hamburg Airport, some 73.7 percent less than in 2019. This is the level of passengers seen in 1984. Such a devastating decline in passenger figures has never been seen before in the history of Hamburg Airport. With around 66,300 take-offs and landings, the number of aircraft movements declined by 56.8 percent in 2020, compared to the previous year (2019: 155,200 flights). In terms of commercial flights, encompassing primarily scheduled and charter traffic, the decline was even stronger: the number of take-offs and landings sank by 63 percent, from 140,800 flights in 2019 to around 52,100 in 2020. The airlines maintained a pared back essential service even in the most difficult lockdown period to ensure mobility for Hamburg and northern Germany.
“The coronavirus pandemic is maintaining its stranglehold on air travel. In the recent history of Hamburg Airport, we have never entered a new year facing such difficult conditions. Many airlines are planning to further reduce their timetables in the coming weeks. But for the summer timetable, we anticipate a slight recovery,” says Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport. “Tests and vaccinations are giving us hope. Going on summer vacation by plane will be possible again in 2021. We can sense that people want to be mobile, they want to explore the world and they want to finally see their friends and families again after months of separation. We are already preparing for demand to start climbing again as soon as travel becomes easier.”
The average number of passengers per flight in 2020 was 88, compared to an average of 124 in 2019. The average number of seats per flight decreased from 159 to 148. Compared to 2019, the load factor on flights to and from Hamburg Airport fell by 18.2 percentage points to 59.6 percent.
At the start of the year, expectations at Hamburg Airport were focused on mild growth. Then along came the coronavirus. In the months of April and May alone, passenger figures collapes to just 1 percent of the previous year’s figures. Infrastructure, however, was still kept operational. The aviation sector also fulfilled its community welfare obligations in Hamburg, facilitating rescue and aid flights and operating cargo flights with protective and hygiene supplies and accessories for testing kits. An Airbus A380, converted for freight, even landed twice at Hamburg Airport.
Although the coronavirus crisis hit Hamburg Airport hard, important projects such as the refurbishment of Apron 1, the roof repairs on Terminal 2 and the modernisation of the the baggage conveyor system and central security checkpoint were completed. New services for passengers were introduced, too: The Self-Bag-Drop kiosks for rapid, non-contact checking of baggage are now available to passengers in Terminal 2 as well as Terminal 1. The Hamburg Airport Lounge was already completely renovated at the start of the year, providing innovative workplaces and seating with great views over the apron.
In the current situation, it is still difficult to produce reliable forecasts for 2021. Hamburg Airport is therefore forced to continue to think in terms of scenarios. For the current year, Hamburg Airport is expecting a slight recovery in passenger figures. “We are currently anticipating around 48 percent of the 2019 passenger volume for 2021 as a whole, but that remains a cautious assumption. We hope that the vaccine will bring the turnaround people are craving,” says Michael Eggenschwiler. “Tourist traffic has a very important role to play. We assume that the private travel sector will recover more quickly than business travel.”