Mallorca Magazin: Chaos at airports, staff shortages, delays, strikes, flight cancellations, inflation, rising fuel prices … Is the European aviation industry currently facing a prolonged storm or is it just temporary turmoil?
Àlvaro Middelmann: The problem of the lack of staff and the resulting consequences does not only affect aviation, but the entire tourism industry. In my opinion, an incomprehensible, incomprehensible mistake in the personnel planning of individual companies.
Middelmann: It has been known since last fall that the demand for vacation and travel this year will increase again as the pandemic subsides. As I said, it is therefore incomprehensible to me that companies have not prepared themselves in time for the growing demand for staff.
MM: At German airports, ground crews also disrupted traffic with their own strikes.
Middelmann: It is understandable that workers, especially in times of economic crisis with high inflation, are trying to take advantage of this situation. But this development was also partially predictable or plannable. In my opinion, the crisis also results from the politicians’ failure to take any actions to mitigate the effects of inflation.
MM: The Ryanair team in Spain are on strike because they earn half as much as their colleagues from Germany or England. Is it really so?
Middelmann: Employee wages in companies with an international presence are always adapted to the local economic conditions. This is perfectly normal. With the best will in the world, I cannot imagine such a big difference in earnings as Spanish Ryanair employees claim.
MM: Will consumers have to pay much more for air travel in the future than in the past?
Middelmann: Honestly, I am surprised that the current oil prices have not increased as much as you might expect.
MM: What could be the reason for this?
Middelmann: For me, there is competition behind this. Large airlines that can afford it are currently trying to force smaller competitors out of the market with low prices. But at some point even the big players will run out of money and have to raise their prices.
MM: So for now there will be no cheap flights to Majorca for less than 20 euros?
Middelmann: In my opinion there will be more for sure.
MM: One of the great advantages of Majorca as a travel destination is the numerous, but above all cheap, flight connections to the rest of Europe. What consequences could an increase in airline ticket prices have for the island?
Middelmann: Money is not the main problem. After two years of abstinence from travel because of the crown, people have enough money to spend a little more on a flight or vacation trip. In summer, the increase in airline ticket prices on the island will not be noticeable. A potential decline in the number of holidaymakers may come in the fall, when many families give up the second trip.
MM: It still seems we are far from there. Many airports in Europe are currently struggling with crowds of passengers. At London airport, the number of transhipments has already been limited to a maximum of 100,000 a day. Is such a restriction also conceivable at Palma Airport for the foreseeable future?
Middelmann: No. The Spanish airport operator Aena is more than 50 percent state-owned. Given the current inflation, it would be a very bad move to limit the number of tourists entering the country.
MM: The left-wing coalition party “Més” in the government of the Balearic Islands calls for the prevention of tourist overcrowding and the associated consumption of resources on the island by reducing the number of passengers at Palma airport. Good idea?
Middelmann: It is well known that minority parties are forgetting their political responsibility towards the broad majority. I believe that Prime Minister Francina Armengol is smart enough not to give in to this demand in any way. The Balearic Islands live off tourism. And as it was said above: In these economically complicated times, such ideas for improving the situation are not at all profitable.
MM: You retired from operational aviation activity yourself. But you can’t do without it, right?
Middelmann: I don’t work for a particular airline anymore, but I follow current industry developments as an observer and consultant.
MM: Do you miss the time when you were on the “front line”?
Middelmann: Thank God I found a replacement. My new calling is to become a grandfather. And this is both a great and varied task.