Air Transport World

The unwanted: a common problem for Munich and Turin: airports that want more service than their nations' flag carriers wish to provide. (Germany and Italy airports)(includes related articles on airport handling services and terminals)

Two countries, Germany and Italy. Two airports, Munich and Turin. Same problem: Attracting more air service when the national flag carrier (1) doesn't want to provide it and (2) also wants to keep others from doing so.

The new Dm8.5 billion ($5.74 billion) Munich airport, Flughafen Munchen, has had its share of problems: Decades in the planning, huge costs and four years late in opening. The coup de grace occurred the day after MUC opened in 1992, when Lufthansa, which dominates activity, said it would postpone developing Munich as a second hub. Promises notwithstanding, its survival and cost-cutting in anticipation of partial privatization came first.

Critics of the project and its cost had a field day, particularly the Social Democratic politicians who dominated city politics and had opposed the program, which was shoved through by Bavarian Christian Democratic powerhouse Franz-Josef Strauss. The criticism has softened since, but Willi Hermsen, president/CEO of MUC, still is armed with a litany of "abnormal" costs to counter charges of excessive spending: Dm800 million for environmental protection; Dm1.2 billion for land; Dm200 million to extend city rail service to the airport, which is 35 km from the center; Dm1 billion for additional construction costs due to legal delays; an air-traffic control tower and maintenance hangar, paid for by governments and airlines at many facilities; a highway that runs through the airport. But extras such as moving stairs at gates to accommodate steep jetway inclines didn't help lower costs.

MUC handled almost 15 million passengers last year in a terminal designed for 18-20 million. With extensions, some occurring this year, capacity will be 24 million. The 70 gates, 65 of them actually scheduled, 10 remote boarding stations and ramp parking slots had modest usage at 7 p.m.

Cargo activity was even more modest. The airport used 60% of its capacity, 270,000 tonnes, last year, and more than half of that was goods handled on the ground and trucked to other airports. Munich also might have more freight traffic, had it attracted couriers. But noise curfews discouraged that. Anyway, Hermsen says, cargo is less profitable than passenger traffic.

But with the uptick in airline fortunes, MUC's traffic is growing. Lufthansa is using it as a complementary hub to Frankfurt, with alternately timed flight banks. Various carriers are adding intercontinental destinations such as San Francisco, Philadelphia and Shanghai via Beijing; frequencies to other intercontinental points and new European cities such as Goteborg, Kiev and Pisa. …

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