Ever since a German Court upheld a decision that bans most arrivals and departures at Frankfurt am Main during the overnight hours, Lufthansa and her passengers have slowly begun to feel the real impact of this decision.
At first, Lufthansa’s Cargo operations faced the biggest challenge since the majority of cargo operations occur overnight when passenger flights were out of the way. With the ban in place, and Lufthansa’s Cargo Fleet grounded at night, Lufthansa had openly suggested that it may need cease Cargo operations altogether or relocate them to a friendlier airport that would not mind the revenue.
If that wasn’t bad enough, passenger flights are in the crosshairs of this ban as well. Though the ban does allow for the landing of flights with weather, medical or other emergencies, regularly scheduled flights are not allowed to operate after 23:00. The issue with this is that a flight that is scheduled to leave at 22:30 (or anytime obviously), but is delayed past 23:00 will not be allowed to depart. This obviously creates headaches for the passengers who are forced to spend the night in Frankfurt, but also adds a substantial expense to Lufthansa (or any other carrier) since they would need to cover the expense of accomodations. Since the ban’s start, 10,000 passengers have had this happen to them.
A case in point: Lufthansa has a normally scheduled flight that departs Frankfurt for Capetown, South Africa in the late evening hours. In instances where that flight is delayed past 11:00p, the flight is canceled and scheduled for the next day. There are other flights by other carriers (Emirates, for example) that also have late night departures but this Lufthansa flight to Capetown is the significant one. Significant because as a result of the late night ban, Lufthansa has now moved this flight to Munich for this Winter. As far as Lufthansa is concerned, impact will ultimately be minimal from this change since it will still fly to Capetown.
The biggest loser in this becomes the airport and ultimately the community around it (who by the way was very vocal and actively sought and fought for the ban). In this one example, the flight which can carry upwards of 300-350 people will no longer have these passengers coming to Frankfurt where they were spending their money and time in the terminal, nor will the airport get the landing fees from Lufthansa nor will it sell fuel to Lufthansa for this flight. That business now is Munchen’s. In this simplistic Macro-economic example, 300 passengers multiplied by 365 days comes to 109,500 passengers that will no longer come to Frankfurt. Double the number to 219,000 if you consider the return flight from Capetown that will now go to Munich as well.
If you stop and think about all the little things that passengers spend money on at an airport like food, parking, shopping, etc., losing 219,000 passengers results in millions of Euro in revenue loss. And this is just ONE flight, multiply this example several times for the other flights that are affected by the late night flight ban.
As any armchair economist will tell you, if companies start to recognize less revenue, jobs are lost, businesses are closed and the economy suffers. The very economy the protestors are a part of and employed within. This flight ban ruling has been a disaster in disguise ever since the initial ruling 8 months ago and made even more problematic after Lufthansa lost it’s appeal.
The twisted irony in this situation is that the few that protested the airport’s operating procedures may have cost themselves and the communities surrounding the airport far more than an occasional night’s sleep. I think this is what is referred to an “unintended consequence” and I suspect more examples of this will be created in the future.