Cologne airport is bracing for the loss of 750,000 passengers over summer 2019 following Eurowings' decision to relocate its long-haul services to Dusseldorf, but is hopeful a new connecting product can help traffic rebound.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Routes Europe conference in Bilbao today, Cologne's director of business development Tobias Lyssy says the airport is preparing for a "massive" loss of long-haul passengers as Eurowings withdraws all of its long-haul routes by the winter 2018-19 season.
Lyssy says he believes Eurowings moved these operations to Dusseldorf to "protect" the market from rivals filling the vacuum left by Air Berlin's collapse last year.
He states that Cologne is seeking to retain passenger traffic at 12 million in 2019 by developing a self-connecting service, which he notes will be similar to London Gatwick's connections product.
Lyssy understands the project will involve providing baggage connecting options and insurance for missed flights. Self-connecting by passengers using Cologne airport is "increasing heavily", he adds.
"Our idea is to connect as many airlines as we could possibly do with this connect platform in order to get the maximum choices out of this," he says.
Lyssy hopes the product will be completed by the end of this year and will go live for bookings next summer. As part of the roll-out, construction work has just begun to provide an air-side connection between the airport's terminals 1 and 2.
He says Cologne previously had a self-connect product in operation in 2007, but it was terminated after Germanwings withdrew from the venture to focus on its own offer.
Lyssy notes the German airport is "quite optimistic" for 2018, with traffic expected to grow from 12.4 million last year to 12.5 million.
The "gaps" left by the collapse of Air Berlin have now been filled, partly thanks to the return of EasyJet to Cologne with a Berlin Tegel service from June, he says. Ryanair and Eurowings are also increasing their European operations at the German gateway this summer.