“We got to change our Friday evening routine”, she said when I arrived at our home after another long and busy week someday in 2003. I had visions of an Italian restaurant, possibly with a lake-side terrace and called Trattoria Toscana. “We’re going to watch TV”, she added.
The television series she’d become hooked on was “Elefant, Tiger & Co.”, about the Leipzig Zoo. I was quite surprised, gave in to what I thought would be just another short-lived quirk, but soon detected firm signs of addiction by myself. Not only because characters (animal and human) and plot were good, the show also reminded me of that unique feeling I’d always associated with Saxony, in particular Leipzig, since childhood. Thanks to the zoo’s TV show, my Friday evening never was to be the same again, and – quite unusual for at times a wee bit chauvinistic Prussian Berliners – a former female sneerer of Saxony was converted into a fan. – Which leads to the subject-matter of this essay: trying to compare and explain the power of attraction of the two leading Saxon cities.
Leipzig and Dresden, two centres of Saxony, seem to be very similar at first sight. Just 120 km apart, they are the same size (about 530,000 population each), and ranked no. 73 (Leipzig) and 74 (Dresden) in the 2011 census on larger urban zones in the EFTA zone (with slightly over 900,000 population each). Both have a long and meaningful history (and presence and future) in areas such as economy, culture and science. Some striking contrasts are visible too: sports (football matches); Dresden being the capital of Saxony and Leipzig a famous exhibition site; tourists praising Dresden’s baroque style and Leipzig’s more varied features and virtues. With regard to their airports, it’s hard to say whether they’re more alike or unequal…
Pointless as it may sound in a country with all neighbours being members of the EU (except for Switzerland, in the case of Germany), the position of Dresden in the southeast corner of Germany (some 40 km north of the Czech and 80 km west of Polish border) seems to be more of a burden than a benefit for the market of outbound leisure flights, if one compares otherwise similar cities and areas around DRS and LEJ. Even the airports are quite similar in terms of total passenger traffic (LEJ with 2.3m and DRS with 1.7m passengers in 2014), and both enjoy excellent highway access and city connections. However, LEJ is pretty much central for the three states Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, and also just 170 km south of Berlin, guiding part of that highly competitive market towards LEJ (namely during the school holidays, when fares on leisure routes tend to be highest). To some extent, DRS gains too, I shall add, but the intercity railway station at LEJ and its location at a major intersection of important and well-strengthened highways are clear advantages. In contrast, the Berlin-Dresden highway suffers from chronic congestion at its northern section, and the trunk railway line between these cities offers limited alternatives only, thus limiting overall DRS handsomeness to southern Brandenburg, well afar from the greater Berlin urban area.
This may explain the sheer drift in the actual summer timetable, where the ratio of leisure seats offered at LEJ in comparison to DRS rose to almost 3:1 (from last year’s 2.09:1). Remember the total passenger number ratio stood at 1.35 : 1 only, and the dichotomy falls into place: strongholds in leisure traffic at LEJ versus business (as well as city short breaks using scheduled flights) traffic at DRS. If you consider the leisure destinations, you can be sure of endorsing the stereotypes of tourism as been defined in the 1960s: sun, beach, sea, palm trees, the South. A classification based on an analogy to the food menu may serve to shed further light on the aforementioned dichotomy: The “staple foods” are AYT and PMI, then followed (after a huge gap) by HER, LPA, TFS, FUE, HRG. That “menu of plain fare” is served at both LEJ and DRS, with the notable exception of TFS being missing at the latter airport (DRS-TFS was online for decades until 2014 though). Volumes vary heavily for AYT and PMI, which explains the bulk part of the imbalance. – Now, the chef has arranged for a course of carbohydrate side dishes to appease your appetite: Greek Islands (RHO, KGS, CFU), Atlantic (ACE, AGA, FNC), more Egypt too (RMF, SSH), Bulgarian Black Sea (BOJ, VAR), the Mediterranean (DJE, NBE, GZP, IBZ, SUF, DBV, SPU). Note that whereas LEJ is linked to them all, DRS merely to seven (17:7). Instructive: the large group of standard destinations missing at both airports this summer altogether: mainland Spain (AGP, ALC, LEI, XRY), Cyprus, Malta, Menorca, Sicily and Naples – most of which haven’t seen a service in recent years but did so in the 1990s. – On the other hand, consider the proudly cherished specialities suggested by the chef: two more Croatian resorts (TIV and BWK, both from LEJ), two Hungarian spas (SOB and DEB, served from either airport) and Luxor (from LEJ). – Afters, anyone? Usual recommendations include airports once served in a prehistoric aeon (CND, AER, SIP, RMI) or wanted for the distant and fantastic future of tourism (no idea), but we guess you’re full by now (and not on that stone-age diet in vogue anyway). – In summary, LEJ offers far more leisure destinations (29 vs. 15), capacity (2.98 ie. threefold, with a 2.32 : 1 ratio for the two volume destinations PMI/AYT – these account for more than 50% of the leisure capacity on either airport), and growth (summer year on year: capacity: +21.6% LEJ, -15% DRS; destinations: four new Croatian airports as well as Luxor at LEJ with no deletions, no additions at DRS with the reductions TFS and SUF). Wait and see.
Timetables of leisure flights tend to have a lower degree of actual performance guarantee, simply because the leisure carriers and chartering tour operators adjust capacities according to the fluctuations of demand (although much effort has been put into improving that degree). Also, the highly competitive environment taught players (carriers and tour operators) to a chop-and-change behaviour, where one is counteracting the other, which may explain at least the growth pattern at Saxon airports. By definition, the used data fail to factor in the shift of leisure passengers towards scheduled flights, both on lecacy and low-cost carriers, which has been an undeniable trend for years. Even though no further scheduled flights to the above mentioned destinations exist, other scheduled flights obviously require consideration when researching total leisure traffic and its variance.
So this summer 2015 timetable analysis was probably a plea for the Leipzig menu, but Dresden’s got Olaf Schubert!
“Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.” (Evan Esar)