Chronicle.lu recently had the opportunity to speak with Alexander Flassak, CEO ad interim at lux-Airport, the operating company of Luxembourg Airport, about the “sobering” impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gradual return to “normality” and new construction projects.
Alexander Flassak joined lux-Airport in 2014 as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Head of Real Estate Development. He became Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2020, before taking over as CEO ad interim in May 2022, following the departure of René Steinhaus at the end of April 2022 after four years at the helm of lux-Airport.
Chronicle.lu: How is the airport coping post-pandemic? Other airports (in the UK, Ireland, etc.) have suffered long queues and cancelled flights at times, with the reasons blamed on staff shortages post-pandemic: how is lux-Airport addressing such issues to provide a premium and consistent service for passengers?
Alexander Flassak: We are seeing very pleasing developments in terms of passenger numbers. Across Europe, and even more in Luxembourg, expectations for 2022 are being exceeded so far. But only the coming months will show whether we are already post-pandemic. Of course, we very much hope that we will not have to return to restricting safety measures again. Financially, the airport has suffered enormously during the pandemic.
However, the situation at Luxembourg Airport is in no way comparable to other European airports. We are embedded in a robust economic environment and so far, only [a] few flights have been cancelled; we see very reliable flight schedules from the airlines.
lux-Airport has managed to guarantee full employment during the past pandemic years and not put any employees on short-time work (chômage partiel). We have also not recorded significant staff churn; compared to 2019, lux-Airport's total headcount has even increased.
However, especially at the beginning of the Easter holidays, we had to deal with COVID-related absences and, in particular, staff shortages among partners and service providers. And we are seeing a special phenomenon this year: significantly more passengers pass through the airport during peak periods compared to pre-pandemic years such as 2018 or 2019. This happens regularly only for short periods of time when numerous departures take place almost simultaneously. However, longer waiting times and filling car parks are almost unavoidable during these peaks.
As a support measure, we have deployed additional staff to assist departing passengers in the Terminal with orientation and preparation for security checks.
And believe me: we are happy about every single passenger coming to the airport. The pandemic years were mostly very sobering for airport employees. We are now gradually coming back to normality. And unfortunately, this also includes rush hour traffic on roads or waiting times at the airport.
The increasing volume of traffic and especially the accumulation at peak times leads us to make the following recommendations:
Passengers should - if arriving in their car - pre-book a parking space. If possible, make use of the evening-before check-in. And to be on the safe side, we strongly recommend to be in the Terminal already two hours before departure at a bare minimum.
Chronicle.lu: Having recently travelled as a passenger through one of the “A” gates (non-Schengen zone), the automated (biometric) passport-reader machines are not operational: please tell us why, and when they will be operational again, as they are helpful for many passengers.
Alexander Flassak: These machines are not the property of lux-Airport, but are provided and operated by the police. Apparently, there are technical problems at the moment, which should be resolved shortly.
Chronicle.lu: Please tell us about the significant construction project beside the main airport terminal and other projects that are currently underway, and are planned, at the airport, to which passengers will look forward?
Alexander Flassak: One of the most visible new constructions is the Skypark Business Center close to Terminal A, the first cornerstone of our Airport City Development. In addition, there are other projects that are very relevant to the airport's development: the fundamental renovation of the runway is particularly worthy of mention. The work is being carried out exclusively at night and in very short time windows to ensure that the runway can be handed over to air traffic again at 06:00 in the morning. In addition, we are currently building the new airport fire station for CGDIS [the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps]. Another upcoming project is the construction of the new fuel farm.
Chronicle.lu: Can you please tell us if lux-Airport planning to increase the destinations (by adding new destinations and / or possibly new airlines) to be served by the airport later this year or next year?
Alexander Flassak: We are very pleased that we currently offer more than 100 destinations, the largest selection the airport has ever seen. However, the selection of new routes is the responsibility of the airlines. To what we hear, they are currently very active in the analysis and I am sure we will soon see even more new exciting destinations on the flight schedule. As soon as new connections are launched, we are happy to inform via our social media channels.