Pandemic effect: Frankfurt airport traffic falls to lowest level since 1984

The operator of Frankfurt airport said Monday that passenger numbers in 2020 plunged to their lowest since the 1980s as the coronavirus pandemic devastated the travel sector.

Pandemic effect: Frankfurt airport traffic falls to lowest level since 1984
A passenger at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Germany's largest airport recorded 18.8 million passengers in 2020, a decline of 73 percent compared with the year before, Fraport said, hitting lows not seen since 1984.

Air traffic came to a complete standstill between April and June during the first coronavirus lockdown, “with weekly passenger figures plummeting by up to 98 percent year-on-year”, Fraport said.

Traffic at the hub recovered in the third quarter of 2020, but then fell again as  restrictions intensified on a resurgence of the virus late in the year, the company said.

In December alone, passenger traffic was down 82 percent year-on-year to just over 890,000 people.

“The year 2020 brought extreme challenges to the entire aviation industry,” Fraport chief executive Stefan Schulte said.

In the summer, the company said it would cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs, or around 15 percent of its workforce.

The Fraport boss stressed that recent vaccination rollouts will lift the company's fortunes, and he believes “Frankfurt's passenger traffic will rebound noticeably in the second half of 2021”.

At the same time, he said he expects 2021 traffic to reach only 35 to 45 percent of 2019's passenger numbers, in a “difficult year”.

Cargo traffic was a rare bright spot in 2020, Schulte said. Feight dropped by just 8.3 percent.

READ ALSO: Germany set to tighten travel rules to limit spread of Covid-19 variants

Travel hit hard

Germany's largest travel companies have been hardest hit by the health crisis.

Flag carrier Lufthansa and Europe's largest tour operator TUI have been forced to tap multi-billion euro aid programmes from the German government to sustain them through the collapse in demand.

Shares in Lufthansa and TUI fell in morning trade Monday on the back of tightening restrictions introduced on travel to Britain.

All arrivals to the UK now have to quarantine and show negative tests for Covid-19, after the government scrapped “travel corridors” from countries with lower caseloads following the emergence of new virus strains.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.