TUIfly is planning to have 5% spare capacity this summer, after suffering disruption during the high season in 2018.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin on 6 March, TUIfly managing director Oliver Lackmann said last year's "summer chaos" had been caused by both external and internal factors.
He sees little change in the external factors this year. "What we know is that we will have problems in air traffic control," he says. "This is obvious, and we will we will see strikes in the summer of '19 as well. And we know that we have some logistical problems at airports with regards to handling, maybe especially in the southern [European] destinations."
In the past, Lackmann notes, TUIfly would subcontract additional capacity from third-party carriers when it was required, "which was fine for that time" but is no longer a viable solution. "We have seen, especially in '18 due to the situation that Air Berlin caused, that no third-party carriers are available on a sub-leasing basis," he says. "That harmed us a lot in TUIfly and it was a hard job to compensate that."
It is in this context that the airline has decided on 5% spare capacity, which translates into 1.5 of 32 aircraft. "One aircraft will be based in Hannover and half an aircraft will be based in Dusseldorf," says Lackmann. The advantage of Hannover, he notes, is that 24h operations are permitted there. Dusseldorf, meanwhile, is TUIfly's biggest station.
To minimise disruption related to maintenance, TUIfly has "looked deeply" into whether its home-base stocks are sufficient. Quality initiatives have meanwhile been undertaken with ground-handling partners, some of which have been replaced as a result of their performance in 2018.
Switching focus to factors beyond TUIfly's control, Lackmann highlights the ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers in Germany. It takes four years to recruit and train candidates, he notes. "The German academy is able to train 120 ATC controllers per year and they are presently at that number."
He cites the Karlsruhe ATC sector as an example of one where this year "we will see the same or similar problems which we have seen in '18", and notes problems elsewhere in Europe: in Serbia, Croatia and Greece, and on trunk routes to the Balearic islands. "I don't expect that this situation will change in summer '19," he says.
This article has been updated to clarify that the final paragraph's Karlsruhe reference relates to the ATC sector rather than the airport