The pandemic has clipped our wings
What is the condition of the industry at the turn of the year? Chances and threats.
Over the last 6-7 months, airports recorded a decrease in revenues by over 70%, and some maybe even more, as compared to the same period of 2019. In October, only 145 349 passengers used the services of Kraków Airport – a decrease by 82% compared to last year. These numbers show how difficult the situation was for the entire aviation industry: airports, carriers, and infrastructure around the airport: shops, restaurants, hotels. Today, it is impossible to assess the impact of the economic crisis. However, it is necessary to reduce costs and adjust them to the much lower revenues of the airport. Despite these restrictions, the safety of passengers and employees, both in the sanitary and operational terms, is still the most important for Kraków Airport, which carries out civil, military and life-saving flights (Medical Air Rescue).
In these difficult times, it is extremely pleasing that Kraków Airport was the first airport in Poland to receive the ACI Airport Health Accreditation. The Accreditation granted by Airports Council International is proof that in the period of the pandemic, Kraków Airport remains at the forefront of the best airports in the world, ensuring the highest standards of passenger safety and health. New sanitary rules, such as distance, wearing masks or compulsory temperature measurement at airports may accompany air travel for a long time.
What do you consider the biggest challenge you will have to face?
We must do everything to restore confidence in flying, convince people to start traveling by air again and return to Kraków Airport. This is a task for the entire aviation and tourism industry, because we are like connected vessels: the city, the region cannot function well without the success of the airport, and vice versa – it is through Kraków Airport that millions of tourists travel to Kraków.
At this stage, we do not know yet whether the city-breaks and popular pilgrimage tourism will return. Independent studies by aviation organizations such as IATA and ACI sound optimistic and confirm that passengers will want to travel by air after the pandemic is under control.
Which of the marketing communication channels were crucial for Kraków Airport this year? How will this change in 2021?
The difficult time related to the crisis in the aviation industry convinced us of the importance of communication in social media, currently the fastest way to communicate with passengers. The situation is dynamic, sanitary guidelines change daily and restrictions are introduced in many countries (quarantine, compulsory COVID test, etc.). Therefore, it is important to react quickly by posting on TT or FB. AIRGATE has also played an important role in Kraków Airport’s communication for many years. The magazine, carried out jointly with Skivak, is available free of charge in paper version at the airport, as well as in an online form on the Kraków Airport 2019 website (krakowairport.pl). We hope that in 2021 the magazine will continue to accompany air travel and present the beauty of our region.
In your opinion, are there any trends that may affect the industry in the near future? Which ones are worth following?
The most important phenomenon appearing at most airports in the world, the value of which has been confirmed during the pandemic, is the full automation of the passenger path. The coming years will be different in terms of travel, and the airport infrastructure based on an automated processes will be the norm.
Such modernization is already taking place in our terminal. Self-Service Bag Drop (SBD) is the most modern form of baggage drop-off by a passenger. It is an innovative solution that allows for quick and comfortable luggage service before departure, without the passenger directly contacting the airport employee. This service is already used by passengers served by Ryanair and Wizz Air. The next step to automating the passenger path is certainly the biometric ABC gates that will appear at Kraków Airport. They will be used for automatic check-in of people departing or arriving in the Schengen area and holding a biometric passport. This will definitely improve the service of travellers, facilitate the work of border services and allow for keeping a sanitary distance.
What will 2021 be like for Kraków Airport?
Perhaps the most difficult time in the history of Kraków-Balice airport. We are constantly working to restore the confidence of passengers in flying; we are talking with other airlines to resume connections and the availability of seats on the planes.
We are convinced that despite the scale of the losses in the city and the region, investments are an effective remedy for the crisis. The airport needs to be modernized, since it is an indispensable tool for the economic development of our region. Therefore, the strategic investment plans included in the Master Plan of the Kraków/Balice airport are still necessary in the era of the greatest crisis in history. The cargo terminal, a new runway, and the modernization of the passenger terminal – these are the priorities for the development of the airport.
It is difficult to make plans for the reconstruction of the aviation and tourism market at the moment, but one thing is certain: the aviation industry will probably be the last to emerge from the crisis. However, Kraków Airport must maintain a sustainable modernization trend and be an even more competitive, efficient, safe, regional airport. Why? Because it remains an indispensable tool for restoring prosperity and rebuilding the economy of Kraków and Małopolska.