A new airport has opened at Kassel in central Germany amid loud criticism that it is superfluous to demand and will be a loss-making burden to public finances for years to come.
The scheme’s backers, mostly regional politicians and business figures, claim that Kassel-Calden airport will be a job motor for the region and will offer direct holiday flights to popular destinations for the region’s residents as well as diverse scheduled flights to city destinations. They hope that some 640,000 passengers a year will use the airport in ten years’ time and that it will then be profitable. But the airport’s numerous critics claim that there is simply not enough local demand to justify the airport’s expansion and its ambitions. Above all, they point to its proximity to Paderborn, 70km away, which offers holiday flights to major destinations, as well as the relative closeness of Hanover and Frankfurt. Ralf Teckentrup, head of Thomas Cook’s Frankfurt-based carrier Condor, claimed that the airport would turn into “an investment grave for millions of euros”, while the chiefs of Paderborn and Hanover airports warned that Kassel-Calden would simply cannibalise the other airports. Diverse politicians said the airport was a waste of money and would be loss-making for the foreseeable future. Even German media have been virtually unanimous in criticising the airport. Kassel-Calden hopes to offer 13 scheduled flights a week this summer, mostly to Majorca and Antalya, along with flights to a few other European destinations. The first charter flight, however, had to be cancelled after just six passengers booked seats. The airport’s managing director Maria Anna Müller said: “People have to get used to the new airport. The first season is always bumpy but we will position ourselves in the market.” The initial commercial flight was by Turkish airline Tailwind to Antalya last Thursday (April 4) with some 70 passengers. The flight was organised by Düsseldorf-based broker Involatus Carrier Consulting (ICC) which stressed its confidence in the airport and is already planning flights for winter 2013/14. “We are convinced about the potential of the region around Kassel-Calden and have therefore already discussed the winter schedule with the airport management. Las Palmas is virtually certain,” said sales manager Okan Türkoral. Tailwind has three weekly flights to Antalya from the airport. Charter airline Germania is planning twice-weekly flights to Majorca this summer, carrying customers of Rewe Touristik, Thomas Cook, Alltours, FTI and smaller operators. It also plans flights to Tenerife in the peak season but has cancelled flights to Fuerteventura.In contrast, Rewe Touristik has cancelled various planned charter flights from Kassel-Calden in April after the insolvency of airline partner XL Airways in January and a fruitless search for a replacement. The tour operator will only have a weekly flight to Palma on Sundays, and its planned flights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays have been dropped. Most of the weekly flights over the next three months will be operated by Hamburg Airways and Spanish carrier Albastar. The opening of Kassel-Calden comes shortly after warnings by the German airports association that most of the country’s smaller airports will be loss-making this year due to airline cutbacks and rising costs. The most prominent case of a loss-making airport kept alive by public money is Hahn airport, the main German base of Ryanair.