Growth in the aviation sector continues at a phenomenal rate across the world and is perhaps as well exemplified at Munich Airport (MUC) as anywhere else.
On May 17th, 1992, the brand new regional airport in Munich officially opened its doors. Located approximately 30 kilometres from the old airport in Riem, the new airport was situated to the north-east of Munich.
The first flight to take off from the new airport was a Lufthansa Boeing 747, which lifted off from the north runway at 5:59am for a scenic flight over the Alps with 218 guests of honour on board. The next day the news media were full of rave reviews for the smooth “on-the-fly” handover to the new airport location, calling it a “world-class performance”
There have been many landmarks in the intervening 25 years since that maiden voyage, but one of the most significant events occurred just a few weeks after lift-off, when in July 1992, Munich hosted the G7 summit and the airport welcomed 140 special flights carrying US president George Bush, his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin, German chancellor Helmut Kohl and the heads of the other leading industrial countries, each with a large entourage.
As Munich Airport celebrates its 25th anniversary, it can reflect upon a period of extraordinary development which has seen it become one of Europe’s leading air transportation hubs, having become the only one on the Continent to boast “Five-star Airport” status.
“Being honoured as the first five-star airport in Europe by the London-based Skytrax Institute is a thrilling accolade for our service and the high-quality passenger experience we provide. Our goal must now be to maintain our excellent quality standards and continue expanding the services we offer travellers,” commented Dr. Michael Kerkloh, the President and CEO of MUC, in April 2017.
“Munich Airport was designed as an airport for all of Bavaria. Since it opened, it has made a substantial contribution to Bavaria’s dynamic economic growth and is a key factor for the economic competitiveness of the entire state. Its unchanging task is to meet the increasing mobility needs of the people and the companies in Bavaria by providing connections to destinations all over the world,” he reflected.
The recent past has proved a transformational period for MUC with a number of major developments, including the opening of Germany’s first midfield terminal in April 2016.
The 600 metre long terminal expanded the airport’s handling capacity by 11 million passengers per year whilst increasing the capacity and choice of retail and dining options.
According to the Airport, the new terminal also raises the bar in terms of its environmental impact and energy efficiency; the “green terminal” sets new standards for the airport industry. Climate protection is a top priority for MUC, which has a strategic target of becoming Germany’s first airport to achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2030.
Evolution continues at MUC and the latest progress came with the news that strategic partner Lufthansa is to station 15 Airbus A350jets in Munich. Serving long-haul routes with these advanced widebody jets will result in enormous reductions in fuel consumption, emissions and noise.
Amid all the celebrations Industry-EU was privileged to recently catch up with Dr. Kerkloh, who has witnessed enormous changes since first arriving at MUC in 2002 as the President and CEO of Flughafen München GmbH (FMG), the airport operating company:
“Over the past 25 years Munich Airport has achieved excellent growth and will continue to do so. MUC has been among the world’s best airports for years (currently: No. 1 in Europe and No. 4 in the world according to Skytrax) and intends to retain that status,” he affirms.
Munich Airport is located 28 kilometres to the north-east of Munich and as one might anticipate, has excellent transportation links, including its own autobahn connection and two S-Bahn rail lines connecting it with Munich city centre.
The airport has a total area of 1,570 hectares and can handle every possible aircraft. The two runways are 4,000 metres long and 60 metres wide and operate independent of one another. Together they are operational for all imaginable aircraft types; from the little Cessna to the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov 225.
The airport is also home to four aircraft hangars, as Dr. Kerkloh describes:
“In the four hangars, maintenance work is performed and offered by the following companies: Lufthansa, Air Berlin, MCM and the police helicopter squadron.”
One of the biggest changes in the past 25 years has been the number of passengers that the airport handles.
“The increase from about 11 million passengers in 1992 to more than 42 million in 2016 demonstrates the enormous growth we have seen over the past 25 years,” Dr. Kerkloh comments. “During that time, the airport built and launched a second terminal (2003) and later a midfield terminal (2016).
“In 2016 we handled approximately 42.4 million passengers. In 2017 we expect growth in the range of 3 to 4 per cent. This is partly due to the fact that airlines have stationed more aircraft here and are adding new destinations,” he adds.
Understanding the client is of course an important consideration for MUC and Dr. Kerkloh says that the type of passenger visiting the airport evolves over the course of the year:
“The passenger mix changes over the course of the year. During holiday periods we have more leisure holidaymakers, and otherwise there are more business travellers. Over the entire year, it’s around a 50:50 split.”
Of course airport revenue streams come in a variety of forms and it is important to get the right mix of retail and food and beverage choices for visitors.
“There are around 50 restaurants and 170 shops. We try to cover the entire range from fast food to gourmet dining, and from simple gift shops to the Hermes boutique,” says Dr. Kerkloh. “The non-aviation segment is becoming more important all the time, and already accounts for around half of our revenues.”
The considerable retail presence is a mark of the general growth at MUC, which saw 394,000 take-offs and landings during 2016.
“That number continues to increase, for example because yet another low-cost carrier, Eurowings, has stationed four aircraft in MUC to serve more than 30 destinations,” states Dr. Kerkloh.
Eurowings is just the latest airline attracted to the gateway to Bavaria, but Lufthansa and its subsidiaries continue to dominate, at present accounting for over 60 per cent of total traffic at MUC.
The role of partnership cannot be understated and has transformed MUC’s fortunes over the past 15 years, as Dr. Kerkloh explains:
“Munich Airport is unique in that regard; in 2002, the airport operating company and Lufthansa joined forces to build, finance and operate Terminal 2, which opened in 2003. For that purpose, FMG and Lufthansa formed a special company, Terminal 2 Gesellschaft (40 per cent owned by Lufthansa; 60 per cent FMG). It operates Terminal 2 along with the satellite building that opened in April 2016.
“The advantage of the company is that it can optimally address and implement the expectations of the airport’s customers (i.e. the airlines) and the airlines’ customers (i.e. the passengers).
“That is a big reason behind the selection of Terminal 2 as the world’s best terminal in the World Airport Awards (Skytrax 2017).”
Today FMG and its subsidiaries have approximately 8,500 employees but in total, Munich Airport is the centre of employment for around 35,000 people.
Despite its significant growth and success, the airport continues to look forwards and has announced plans to expand Terminal 1.
“With the construction of a new pier and a central building complex, the terminal will gain capacity for an additional 6 million passengers per year. The new pier will be linked to the existing A and B modules of Terminal 1 and will extend 320 metres into Munich Airport’s western apron. It will have stands to handle up to 12 aircraft, including two equipped for Airbus A380 superjumbos,” Dr. Kerkloh explains.
“The overall architectural design is based on a three-level structure consisting of a core adjoining the existing Terminal 1 and a pier. At the apron level, the baggage claim area and departure gates for non-pierside aircraft will be located. The level will be connected to the existing terminal at Module B.
“The core building will contain the central security and passport control facilities and a marketplace with high-quality dining and retail offerings. The departure gates, inside the pier, will also be on this level.
“The level above the departure area will serve to channel arriving passengers, depending on whether they are headed for the security screening for connecting passengers on that level or down to the baggage claim area. This level will also have attractively designed and spacious lounge areas.
“The expansion project, including the affected arrival areas in the existing Module B, will have a total area of about 80,000 square metres. According to initial estimates, the project will cost a total of 400 million euros, which Munich Airport will finance with its own resources,” he continues.
Such an extensive project, amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy airport, presents its own unique set of challenges. These are nothing new to MUC however and Dr. Kerkloh is confident that disruption will be minimised:
“Of course a terminal expansion project in the middle of the existing ramp while flight operations continue as normal is a big challenge – a little bit like open-heart surgery. We are completely confident, however, that we are up to the task, because we faced similar challenges while building the Satellite Terminal, and came through with flying colours.”
The Satellite Terminal celebrated its first anniversary in April. And the results are more than respectable, as Dr. Kerkloh outlines:
“In the first year, the new terminal handled more than 74,000 flights. Since it opened on April 26, 2016, Germany’s first midfield terminal has been used by around 9 million passengers – with one in five travelling on intercontinental routes.
“The Satellite Terminal is a continuation of the successful joint venture between Munich Airport and Lufthansa. It has increased the capacity of Terminal 2, which is used by Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners, by 11 million to 36 million passengers per year.
“With its light-flooded spaces and outstanding range of services, the new building has proved a big hit with the airport’s passengers and staff.
“The driverless underground personal transportation system (PTS) takes less than a minute to carry passengers from Terminal 2 to the satellite. Another advantage of the quick link: passengers departing from Terminal 2 gates can also head over to the satellite to explore the new world of shopping and dining options. Awaiting them are 16 stores, seven restaurants and cafés and three duty free zones with a total area of 7,000 square metres.
“The central marketplace surrounding the apron tower has proved especially popular, offering a wide range of Bavarian and international specialties.”
Another major project in the offing is the redesign of the Munich Airport Centre (MAC), including the Forum and the central building, with the aim of creating an architecturally consistent, attractive, modern link between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. The work is to be carried out between 2020 and 2023.
And there will be further investment in the future, as Dr. Kerkloh describes:
“Of course Munich Airport will continue to develop. Along with the big expansion projects, the third runway and the refurbishment of Terminal 1, further expansion measures are planned in the airport’s public areas, such as the new Airport Academy in the west of the campus.”
The need for further expansion is likely to heighten in coming years, but presently, Dr. Kerkloh says the biggest challenge is slot management:
“The existing system with two runways is close to full capacity, so that even now we are fully booked during most hours of the day. As a result, we are already forced to turn down traffic because we lack the necessary slots for additional take-offs and landings. That’s why we are still urgently calling for a third runway and appealing to policy makers to make a decision as quickly as possible.”
Despite the challenges of running a major airport in the 21st Century, Dr. Kerkloh and his team have plenty to reflect upon and celebrate.
“Munich Airport’s development has been an unparalleled success story. The number of takeoffs and landings more than doubled over the first 25 years and passenger traffic has increased nearly fourfold. In airport management, it is an ever-increasing priority to find sustainable, resource-conserving solutions for the operation and expansion of an airport.
“Munich Airport is committed to the environment and climate protection and wants to be a trailblazer in that area. We therefore recently passed a resolution committing Munich Airport to the target of becoming Germany’s first airport with carbon-neutral operations by 2030. The company plans to invest a total of 150 million euros to achieve that goal.
“The anniversary was celebrated with numerous events for the various target groups. About 8,000 airport employees attended the big anniversary party celebrated on the day itself. On May 20 and 21, the airport hosted family days, with a section of the airport ramp open to the throngs of visitors.
“The guests had the opportunity to inspect modern and historical aircraft and also got an up-close look at aircraft handling operations.”
The final word from Dr. Kerkloh is to reflect upon what has made Munich Airport such an unmitigated success over time.
“Once again, I can only let other people speak for us. A big reason why the millions of respondents to the Skytrax survey chose us as the number one airport in Europe and number three in the world is their very positive response to the friendliness, hospitality and Bavarian charm of our airport staff.
“And there’s one more unique Bavarian feature: We operate our own airport brew pub – and it’s a huge hit with our guests from all over the world, and with our neighbours.
“We hope that it remains as safe at Munich Airport as it has been in the past, and that we do not experience unfortunate incidents of any kind. And we are very confident that we will complete our anniversary year with an impressive passenger record,” he concludes.