Increased Traffic is Helping Spur Growth in Munich

Feb. 14, 2018
Munich Airport is rapidly becoming Europe’s “mega-hub‘ and building its infrastructure accordingly.

Munich Airport is moving on the fast track to expand its infrastructure with the aim of becoming Europe’s “mega-hub“ hub, particularly after the German national carrier Lufthansa moved part of its traffic operations from Frankfurt to Munich.

Notwithstanding the transfer of part of its operations from Frankfurt to Munich, Lufthansa Cargo recently signed an eight-year agreement, from January 2018 to December 2026, with Fraport, which manages the Frankfurt airport operations, on ground-handling partnership at Frankfurt airport.

The new agreement covers aircraft ground handling, particularly the loading and unloading of all freighter aircraft belonging to Lufthansa Cargo. Transportation of cargo to and from the aircraft on the airport grounds is also part of the agreement.

Lufthansa Cargo‘s fleet consists of Boeing B 777 and MD-11 aircraft. The cargo carrier generates the highest cargo volumes of all airlines at Frankfurt Airport.

However, Michael Kerkloh, the chairman of Munich Airport, is pleased with the transfer of part of Lufthansa’s operations to Munich, and pinpoints three major strategic Lufthansa moves which are expected to bolster the airport’s status to a mega-hub.

“First, Lufthansa decided and started to station 15 of its 25 brand-new Airbus A350 wide-body jets exclusively in Munich. This will yield economic benefits and is also a boon to the environment,” Kerkloh says. “Second, when the 2018 summer timetable begins, Lufthansa will have five of its 14 A380 aircraft stationed in Munich for the first time. Bavaria's hub will join London, Paris and Frankfurt to become the fourth European airport to be home to an A380 fleet. This means that Munich Airport will become a mega-hub of Europe’s largest airline group - Lufthansa. This is a decisive and moving moment for our airport. The gigantic Airbus will operate on routes to Hong Kong, Beijing and Los Angeles.

“Third, a further boost to Munich's competitiveness is the decision by Lufthansa’s subsidiary Eurowings to station medium and long-haul aircraft here,” he continues. “With the foreseeable increases in continental and intercontinental traffic, our high-quality airport will attain a new standard of quality in the coming years. We will then be equally well positioned as a hub across all traffic segments.”

While Lufthansa has, for now, transferred its passenger aircraft to Munich, the Munich Airport chief is also confident about future cargo growth. Kerkloh points out that Munich airport’s cargo business has been showing steady growth over recent years.

“Our cargo volume in 2016 grew by 5 percent to a total 334,000 tons. From January to September 2017 the volume increased by 9.6 percent over the corresponding period of last year, and totaled 269,200 tons,” he says, adding that, particularly, in regard to the perishable goods sector, Munich Airport provided a temperature controlled border inspection post and animal station of more than 1,200 square meters.

Other factors are also expected to strengthen Munich airport’s cargo traffic.

“Further, Munich Airports cargo subsidiary Cargogate and Lufthansa Cargo have additional storage and cooling facilities for perishables. Cargogate operates five such rooms ranging from 25 to 75 square meters in size with temperatures ranging from -20 degrees C to 15 degrees C,” Kerkloh says. “In addition Aerogate, another Munich Airport subsidiary, owns temperature-controlled vehicles for the transportation of goods from and to the aircrafts. Lufthansa Cargo operates comparable facilities.

“Within the last years, Munich Airport has developed an important export hub due to increasing belly capacities and the growing engagement of forwarders on the airport’s premises. Munich Airport’s cargo traffic development team is very active to further expand the airport’s cargo business, especially on the US and Asian markets,” he adds.

One way to popularize Munich’s entry into major markets is by sponsoring events. Indeed, Munich airport sponsored in early October Lufthansa’s “LCAG Oktoberfest” in Chicago.

With both passenger and cargo traffic poised to grow, the airport is keen to expand its infrastructure for ground handling services. In addition to the equipment that is currently used, newer equipment, based on the latest technology and innovations, will also be inducted. These decisions will be made based on various factors, including the overall needs of the airport and costs.

Kerkloh maintains that the “many expansion projects,” including the satellite terminal which was opened in 2016, bear witness to the rapid transformation from a “city airport” to an “airport city.”

“For sure, the unique joint venture between Munich Airport operating company FMG and Lufthansa to build an efficient and fast hub system drove the enormous growth and development.  Munich Airport’s location at the center of Europe has been a factor that has become all the more important with the expansion of the European Union,” he says.

Bavaria’s largely export-driven economy is reliant on access to international air-transport services.  The transformation brought an optimum choice of aviation routes and high-quality connections to places around the world, helping further develop and sustain the region’s economic strength, the airport’s chief executive says.

“We are also planning the long-term optimization of our Terminal 1 facilities, including a new pier, in order to expand capacities and to guarantee and secure high service standards,” Kerkloh explains. “The airport’s facilities are already ready for the new generation of aircraft.”

The airport is, meanwhile, already stretched to the limit as far as availability of traffic slots is concerned. Since its opening in 1992, the airport’s passenger volume has more than tripled to over 42 million. In the last five years, traffic has increased by nearly 20 percent.

This trend is expected to continue. Germany’s Transport Ministry expects air traffic to grow by about 60 percent by the year 2030 compared to 2010. This will have a “significant effect” on the Munich hub; the construction of a third runway is considered to be necessary for Munich and, indeed, Bavaria’s long-term growth.

Munich Airport’s runway capacity is currently at its limit during the eight to 10 operating hours each day. Airline requests for additional slots and the corresponding flight connections have to be turned down.

“Due to current growth trend, the bottlenecks will get worse. The construction of the third runway, which has been officially approved and has overcome all the court challenges, is therefore necessary to enable the airport to expand the range of available services in line with demand,” Kerkloh argues.

The ground-handling services at German airports are regulated by the ground handling service regulation (BADV) according to the EU-guideline 96/67/EG, requiring two ground handling service providers per airport. One of them is AeroGround Flughafen München GmbH, the wholly-owned ground handling subsidiary of Flughafen München GmbH (Munich Airport). The second ground handling company at Munich Airport is Swissport Losch.

AeroGround offers all landside and airside services relating to aircraft, baggage and passenger handling at Munich Airport.

Munich Airport, which has been elected President of the Airport Council International (Europe), with Kerkloh taking over the President’s role, is striving to bring more visibility to the issues affecting the airport industry and to the work of the association’s full-time team in Brussels.

“We are striving to continue with the positive developments in the European airport industry, evaluating different interests and needs. That said, Europe’s airports most pressing issues are quite diverse, ranging from the EU Aviation Strategy and Aviation Security to climate action, the airport capacity crunch and opportunities from digitalization,” Kerkloh says. “Further, we will aim at fair solutions with regard to airport charges.”

About the Author

Manik Mehta

Manik Mehta is a New York-based journalist, who specializes in all the aspects of aviation and logistics, including airlines, aircraft leasing, airports, infrastructure, cargo and ground-handling, as well as global markets, trade and business.