Airport Luebeck, an airport rich in tradition

Today we would like to ask you to support a cause which is important for the future of our company. Support the extension of the Airport Luebeck and prevent it from being shut down due to ignorance or even mischief! The airport has a large potential for the Northern Germany economy, the science sector and tourism ̶ if only it was not permanently hindered.

Luebeck is a worldwide known, attractive city, where people like to make their home. It is first choice among tourists. A huge attraction for Luebeck is also its university, which has produced a novel growth sector: medical engineering. This new sector was able to compensate for the demise of other industrial branches and is the appropriate supplement to agriculture and tourism.

Closing down the Medical University Luebeck would have been foolish, one would have lost trust, driven off companies who are dependent on the university or prevented the foundation of new companies.

A commercial enterprise from the technology sector already has a great disadvantage due to the peripheral position of the city and the low population density of the territorial federal states in Northern Germany. The business partners are not nearby as is the case with our competitors in Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt or Cologne, but widely spread over different regions. Therefore, we are more dependent on motorways (hopefully without speed limit) than the south and we need a sensible connection to the international air traffic to be able to keep pace. For all these reasons we think it would be as foolish to shut down the airport as the idea of closing down the Medical University two years ago.

Large new industrial centres develop with great speed on our globe, particularly in China, India, Brazil and in the Gulf States. At every such hot spot in the world the provision of an airport is one of the most important infrastructural measures. Shanghai, Beijing or Dubai without an airport – unimaginable! For a company that is located far off the beaten track in the north of Germany without good air connections it is very difficult to organise its growth. It is important to quickly reach companies and universities in the south of Germany, attend congresses and visit customers. Otherwise we will be left behind by the south! We have been waiting for a direct flight from Luebeck to the large hubs Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam or Copenhagen for years. We have long since envied our competitors in other cities who are blessed with an efficient airport.

Schleswig-Holstein’s runway is not in Hamburg-Fuhlsbuettel! Also with the new government I miss economic thinking and common sense! I would like an expert from the business sector at the top, not an administrator. Someone who sees the opportunities that the Airport Luebeck would offer if only they let it and not how much money can be potentially saved if the airport was shut down. Someone who does not worry about an initial loss of two million euros per year, since one could later gain hundreds of millions with the airport. Someone who is keen to safeguard traditions and does not ignorantly waste our potential. Some years ago, someone tidied up his attic in Augsburg and discovered an old painting which he brought to a car boot sale. A clever collector saw the painting and bought it. He showed it to an expert, and, surprise! it was actually a real Caspar David Friedrich. The painting was restored by experts and then auctioned by Sotheby’s for 1.5 million dollars.

I would love to see a similar story of success for the Airport Luebeck. That the politicians finally recognise the non-material and the economic value of this traditional airport and properly extend it for the sake of the region.

Several years ago another transportation project had been violently debated: the Baltic Sea motorway A20. The mayor of Gross Groenau and other geniuses predicted that its construction would not be profitable. Today, however, if you look from the motorway bridge near Hornstorf and see the many cars passing by, you can but be glad about the successful new connection between the east and the west of Germany. It has not only alleviated the existing traffic but has caused the exchange between the two federal states in the north to become more intense. The cities have moved together. Two lessons can be learned from the success of the Baltic Sea motorway: First, never listen to pessimists, and second, with respect to the Luebeck airport, it is the supply that determines the demand!

Now we demand some sensible flight connections to be able to travel from Luebeck to all destinations in the world, again opposing the advice of Gross Groenau’s mayor ̶ again evidence of the airport’s good prognosis.

Travellers from Luebeck who wish to catch a plane in Fuhlsbuettel first have to go to Hamburg and then cross the city through its narrow streets. They have to allow for a lot of extra time, particularly when trying to catch an expensive connecting flight in Frankfurt or Munich. They have to get up at five o’clock in the morning and spend half a day travelling in order to catch their afternoon flight to New York at three o’clock. Our brothers and sisters from the neighbouring east have to endure an even greater ordeal. The inhabitants of Wismar or Grevesmuehlen are practically cut off from the great wide world! It is therefore imperative to organise air traffic to several large airports in cooperation with the city of Rostock.

The inclusion of our region in the international air traffic might not be so relevant for a private person or an administrator, who goes on holiday by plane once or twice a year. He can allow for a few extra hours for the detour to Hamburg. However, for a modern commercial enterprise, good flight connections are essential.

The administrator says that our runway is in Fuhlsbuettel. He tries to treat us second best. In any case, Luebeck should not be treated better than Kiel! Of course Luebeck is not the leading cosmopolitan city it was 500 years ago. But that is exactly the point. The more Luebeck gives itself up, the deeper it will sink into nothingness. If you connect two differently sized soap bubbles with a straw, the larger bubble will suck all the air from the smaller one. In Luebeck most of the more exclusive clothes shops have given up. I had to buy my suit for today’s speech in Hamburg. If it is worthwile, Hamburg just helps itself and takes away the wind wheel trade fair away from Husum.

If an ambitious scientist wants to be successful, he or she depends on international networking. A newly appointed professor for gynaecology might move from Luebeck to Frankfurt where he is able to keep in touch with the scientific society much easier. The fact that EUROIMMUN AG has its headquarters in Luebeck is due to historic reasons and not to its position which is out in the sticks: The founder developed the enterprise from the University and was dependent on existing cooperation projects. Moving the headquarters to one of Germany’s economical centres would have affected the continuity and the existence of the company. If a customer, applicant, investor, supplier or sales agent needs to fly to Hamburg and then travel on to Luebeck, this represents a huge disadvantage for ourselves. He or she can reach our competitors who are located in Hamburg much faster, getting there and back in one day is much easier. This is detrimental to our company: We reduce prices, organise transfers and pay the customer or applicant rental cars and hotels. The project Metropol-Region (metropolitan area) is pointless anyway, completely unnecessary, mucho ado about nothing. The federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania should rather join forces and found a common Northern state to be able to keep pace. Their interests are very similar, and they would save administrative expenses.

What are actually the benefits that the Luebeck airport might bring us one day? The existence of the airport is not justified by the mere fact that people from Hamburg pay lower prices for flying from Luebeck to their holiday destinations, although this might currently be in the foreground. It might become relevant to keep the airport as a surrogate runway for Hamburg. But this is still written in the stars. First of all, travelling must become more convenient for people from the east of Schleswig-Holstein and the west of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. For this, we absolutely require direct connections from Luebeck to several large airports. This will enable us to promote tourism, in fact in both directions: popular holiday destinations will be reached more quickly and the north of Germany will be opened up to vacationers. From Luebeck, travellers can rapidly board the ferry in Travemuende. The economic potential of regional industry will be strengthened by the facilitation of technical and scientific cooperation. New companies that require airport access will establish themselves in the region. Health tourism to Luebeck will become possible. Specialists from the Medical University of Luebeck will be able to offer their expertise to patients from all over the world (if patients travel via Hamburg, they generally end up in the Eppendorf university clinics).

There are several reasons why the Luebeck airport has not been profitable during the past decade. First, the connection to the road traffic via the new motorway A20 has only recently been completed. Before that, the west of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had practically no proper road access to the airport. But above all, no airline dares to establish new flight connections in Luebeck if the future of the Luebeck airport is uncertain. There are some activists who block all expansion measures by abusing our courts. But the politicians are also constantly questioning the airport’s future. Moreover, the city of Luebeck does not seem to be the right operator for the airport because it denominated a person as head of the supervisory board whose wife is fighting against the same airport in our courts!

It is also very odd and stupid to make the survival of the airport conditional on financing by the city of Luebeck, which has been broke for a long time. Politicians from Kiel assigned an unresolvable task to Luebeck due to the fact that they begrudge their neighbouring town every advantage, regardless of the damage this inflicts to the whole of the federal state. Since the airport is only to a small extent for the benefit of the inhabitants of Luebeck and much more for that of the bordering federal states, it should be organised and paid for by those states and not by the city of Luebeck. Much the same as the regional roads and motorways in this region. As far as I know, the port is also sponsored by the federal state.

Dear politicians in Kiel and Luebeck: Give Luebeck airport a perspective of at least ten years. Fill the supervisory board of the airport association with supporters. Arrange for the court procedures to be concluded. Allow the runway to be extended. Grant two million of state funds per year to the airport’s business operations for a few years. And cooperate with Rostock airport.

If all this is done, airlines will come and organise a regular service. In just a few years the airport will reach break-even point. However, its largest benefit will not become apparent in the airport’s profit and loss statement, but in the economic potential of this region. There are several companies in Luebeck that might be willing to take on a new opportunity and establish a small airline that flies from Luebeck directly to several large German airports to ensure that worldwide destinations are reached quickly from Schleswig-Holstein (east) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (west). The Baltic states, Poland and north Italy will be included in the schedule to ensure that airplanes are used to their full capacity even outside main flight hours. Precondition for this, however, would be a reliable perspective and reasonable basic conditions. We are also ready to participate as a company, although we make more money out of laboratory diagnostics.

Finally I would like to explain the situation of our company in a more detailed manner: EUROIMMUN produces medical laboratory equipment, we are at the time 1,300 employees, most of whom are employed in Schleswig-Holstein (Luebeck, Groß Groenau) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Dassow). We are a modern, international enterprise and constantly in contact with customers, business partners and scientists both in Germany and abroad. We are based on research and development, organise more than 25 scientific congresses, and cooperate with over 50 university institutes. Our partners have to come and see us often and we have to go and see them as well. We depend on air travel and have been waiting for a long time for direct connections between Luebeck and several European air traffic hubs.

EUROIMMUN has even employed a taxi driver to fetch 50 guests per month from Hamburg airport and to drive them back. Many visitors hire a car. Hundreds of flights are made by our own employees from Fuhlsbuettel every year. But travelling is so complicated that we have already missed some good chances of cooperation or business, probably more than we know of.

We have grown quickly and doubled our business volume every five years in the past. In the first half of the current year we had a growth in turnover by 25%, at the end of 2012 the turnover will have been of 130 million euros. In five years the capacity of our branches in Luebeck and Dassow will be all used and we will need new additional premises for 600 to 1,000 new employees. I will not open a new subsidiary without any active airport nearby and want to make clear: If the regional government shuts down the Airport Luebeck, we will rather further expand our branch near Dresden.

Source: Published as a nine-part insertion in Lübecker Nachrichten, July 2012.