Munich Airport is busy putting the finishing touches to its sparkling new second terminal, a development that is expected to cement the airport's position as one of Europe's most important hubs. Richard Rowe looks at final preparations on the ground.
With the clock ticking down to the June 29 opening date, workers continue to clamber over every inch of Munich Airport's new Terminal 2 (T2). There is still much to be done, but even now with its exposed wires and half-finished ducting, it is clear just what an impressive facility this great glass atrium of a building will become. With cutting edge design from local architectural practice Koch + Partners, the Euro 1.5 billion ($1.79 billion) T2 is a powerful symbol of Munich's growing importance as a world city. It is also a measure of how far the airport has come in a relatively short time. The original terminal is just 10 years old and the fact that there is now sufficient demand to warrant a second - and one that doubles capacity at the airport to 50 million passengers a year - speaks volumes.
Today, Munich is the second largest airport in Germany and the eighth largest in Europe in terms of passengers handled - nearly 23 million in 2002. As well as a symbol of prosperity, T2 also represents a mould-breaking collaborative project that both Munich Airport and German national carrier Deutsche Lufthansa hope will drive their mutual good fortune for years to come. It is the first time that an airport and airline have come together, certainly in Europe, to jointly design, build and eventually manage such a facility.
The T2 project is run by a management holding company - Terminal 2 Betriebsgesellschaft GmbH - held and financed 60 percent by Munich Airport and 40 percent by Lufthansa. True to the spirit of cooperation, the holding company has two managing directors, one from each organisation.
"This is a major strategic move, not least because it allows genuine long-term planning," explains Philipp Ahrens, Assisting Manager to the Vice President (Operations) at the airport. "The main aim of the project is to further strengthen Lufthansa's ambitions to enlarge hub operations at Munich."
He continues, "Having used Munich and Frankfurt in a dual hub system [since summer 2001] the investment by Lufthansa is a very good sign for us."
It should be a win-win situation for both parties. The airport has locked in an airline partner that, despite its recent financial woes - Lufthansa recently posted first quarter operating losses of Euro 415 million - remains a hugely powerful ally. Lufthansa, in the meantime, has gained not only a dedicated terminal, but also the ability to shape the future direction of one of Europe's most rapidly developing airports.
The new terminal is tailor-made for the exclusive use of Lufthansa and its partners inside and outside of the Star Alliance and when the new facility opens on the morning of June 29, some 60 percent of the airport's traffic will make the switch from the existing terminal.
It is a huge undertaking. Lufthansa will be joined by fellow Star members Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, SAS, Spanair, Thai International and United Airlines. Other non-Star, but codeshare carriers, making the move include Air Dolomiti, Augsburg Airways, Croatia Airlines, Eurowings, LOT Polish and Luxair.
All will be joined in T2 later this year by US Airways, which recently announced plans to join the Star Alliance.
Of course, all this movement frees up significant space at the still youthful T1. And while the industry may be depressed, airport managers hope that when the recovery comes, new carriers will have an opportunity to enter the market. Existing airlines already serving Munich will also be able to add frequencies that would not have been possible in the old one-terminal environment.
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