Air Service One talks with, Monica Linder-Guarnaccia, Marketing Director of EuroAirport
Air Service One talks with, Monica Linder-Guarnaccia, Marketing Director of EuroAirport. We find out how the airport is rebuilding its network, as well as get an idea of the lighter side of the airport’s new Marketing Director.
This is your first Routes Europe as Marketing Director of the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. When did you take over this position and are the goals set for the future?
I arrived at the EuroAirport on 1 February. After the pandemic, the most important goal is to rebuild the traffic and to improve the customer experience at our airport.
What has been the biggest challenge for EuroAirport regarding air service development during the pandemic?
The uncertain situation given by the ongoing changing governmental travel restrictions which made it difficult for airlines to take decisions.
Have there been additional challenges during the pandemic being a tri-national airport?
We have seen different travel restrictions from the three markets building our catchment area (France/Switzerland/Germany). But these differences and the two different traffic right bases (French/Swiss traffic rights) also gave some opportunities to operate flights that would not have been possible having only a single market.
How are you seeing the relative recovery of the leisure market compared with the business market?
Since the travel restrictions have been reduced, VFR and leisure traffic have strongly recovered. For certain markets the level is already higher than pre-pandemic. The Swiss and the French GDP exceeded by the end of 2021 the level of pre-pandemic. The Basel area is Switzerland’s second important business centre and enjoys, thanks to the life science industry, the country’s fastest rate of economic growth. This is helping business traffic to recover.
In 2019, easyJet accounted for over half of all seat capacity at the airport and around half of all flights. It was also around seven times bigger than its nearest rival Wizz Air. What are the positives and negatives of having a dominant carrier at the airport?
Due to the very strong and stable economy of the Basel area, easyJet provides a very large network from our airport. This strong base is the evidence for other airlines that one can operate from the EuroAirport and create good profits with the strong Swiss buying power. easyJet has also opened new markets where other players have jumped on. The presence of various other LCCs and legacy carriers at our airport shows, that even with the presence of a strong home carrier, other players do have a chance to have profitable operations from the EuroAirport.
Several of Europe’s major flag-carriers currently serve Basel, but some which served you pre-pandemic (like Brussels Airlines, Iberia and TAP Portugal) have not (yet) returned. What are you doing to encourage them back?
We are in constant contact with various airlines in regards to operating in new markets or on underserved routes like the mentioned routes (Basel to Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon). Of course, we would welcome the return of these flag carriers. The presence of Air France, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines are the living evidence of the hub demand. However, we follow a liberal market policy. As such these routes could also be operated by other players.
While easyJet and Wizz Air offer many routes from Basel, Ryanair operates just two routes, to Dublin and Zagreb. Ryanair normally serves medium-sized with lots of routes or none at all. What is your relationship like with Europe’s biggest airline?
As mentioned earlier, we follow an open and liberal market policy. As such, our tariff rules are the same for all of our customers. At the end of the day, it is up to the airline if they want to benefit from our market.
The biggest growth since 2019 has come from Corendon Airlines and Wizz Air. What have been the factors that have encouraged these airlines to grow significantly at Basel?
Both airlines have found new route opportunities and options of routes that have been underserved. For destinations in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, we have a special incentive, which is for sure also helping to build up new routes. Further, we have a special rebate in place operations with modern aircraft such as the NEOs or the MAXs. More and more airlines are taking up that benefit, a win/win for the airline and the environment.
You mentioned that one of your goals is to improve the customer experience, what approaches do you take?
We do ongoing measuring of the quality and services with the classic approach of control and adjustment, and on the aviation side, we try to convince traditional service carriers to operate from our airport. For example, Air Albania has started last month, and Aegean will re-start scheduled operations to Athens on the 16 June.
Do you have specific goals in terms of the route development?
Our catchment area generates not only a good volume of departing passengers. The Basel area and the connected regions (Alsace in France and Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany) are all strongly visited by tourists. The region is well known for its pure nature, clean waters, rich culture, the Black Forest, the Swiss Alps, the Rhine river cruises and not forgetting the world-leading theme park, the Europa Park. In order to enhance the accessibility for these visiting tourists the next bigger step will be to develop direct flights from North America, from the Middle East and beyond from Asia.
What infrastructure developments have you made in recent years and how important are these for attracting new services?
We are ongoing with a total refurbishment of the immigration and baggage delivery area. These works were put on hold during the pandemic but are now soon to be finished. For our airport, it is important that new infrastructures are in line with the needs of our customers, and that we keep the balance of investments and the expected ROI.
Are there infrastructure project for the coming years?
Beside a modular terminal extension, which is under evaluation, we are in advanced progress for a direct train access, which will connect the airport as from 2030 with the French and the Swiss railway systems. The construction of an airport hotel will start soon, and we work on an enhancement of the car parking situation. For the important cargo business, we are in the evaluation process of new infrastructure for the import of perishable products.
All-time favourite airline livery?
The British Airways Landor design
All-time favourite aircraft?
Hardest to remember three-letter airport code?
I’m new in aviation, so all of them!
Most remote airport ever visited?
Trinidad / Cuba
Favourite sport to watch/play?
Football (FC Basel)
Favourite TV show?
Out of Rosenheim
Favourite place in your local area?
On the banks of the river Rhine
Favourite fact about Basel (the city not the airport)?
Basel downtown is a medium size city with roughly 200,000 inhabitants, but it is very international, with people from over 165 nations living here.