The sky’s the limit

Having first opened its doors on 17th May, 1992, Munich Airport began life as a predominantly regional airport. A quarter of a century later and it has been transformed into one of Europe’s leading air transportation hubs, and the first in Europe to be awarded ‘Five Star Airport’ status by the London-based Skytrax Institute.

“One of our biggest accomplishments to date, and arguably the main contributing factor to our growth, was to enter into a strategic partnership with Lufthansa,” begins Dr. Michael Kerkloh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Munich Airport. “The idea behind this unique joint venture was to build an efficient and fast hub system, and to bundle airport and airline expertise in order to create a terminal building offering maximum service and comfort to passengers.”

Over the past 25 years, Munich Airport has handled around 8.5 million flights, with the total number of passengers arriving, departing or catching connecting flights topping 700 million in that time. Today a total of 84 different airlines serve Munich Airport,which itself serves 238 destinations in 68countries. Since its first year in operation commercial passenger numbers have increased from 12 million in 1992, to 42.3 million in 2016, representing average annual growth of 5.5 per cent. This translated into record revenues of 1.4 billion euros for the airport in 2016, placing it within the top ten performers in the world. In addition to being a key contributor to the tourism industry of the Bavarian region, the airport’s campus is also home to approximately 500 companies and public authorities, providing employment for around 35,000 people.

Munich Airport’s transformation from a city airport into what it describes as an ‘airport city’ has been particularly impressive considering the relatively short timescale in which it has been achieved. “Our joint venture partnership with Lufthansa helped motivate our enormous growth and development, as did the support of the government during both the construction and first development stage,” Michael continues. “Bavaria is also one of Europe’s most successful regions, with an export-driven economy that is reliant on access to international air transport services. Timing our transformation correctly allowed us to capitalise on an optimum choice of global aviation routes and connections.”

While he is rightly proud of all the honours and awards the airport has received over the years, one of its greatest achievements in the eyes of Michael has been the awarding of Europe’s only ‘Five Star’ status by Skytrax. “This is an extraordinary accolade which challenges us every day anew,” he enthuses. “We have successfully positioned ourselves at the upper end of the marketplace in terms of airports and we are determined that travelers benefit from all a premium airport has to offer. At the same time, we have made sure to strike a good balance between commercial and recreational activities within our terminals, while also striving to retain a hassle-free environment that travelers can appreciate and enjoy.”

A further aim for the airport, and arguably a much more ambitious one, is its goal to become a carbon-neutral operation by 2030. “Sustainability is of the utmost importance for Munich Airport and plays a key role in our corporate strategy,” Michael states. “To date we have rolled out a number of projects that go far beyond statutory requirements and industry standards, investing in environmental protection strategies that help to increase efficiencies across the campus. We anticipate spending around 150 million euros up to 2030 on the most modern processes and technologies as we look to make Munich Airport a demonstration platform for the rest of the world for what can be possible in the future.”

In what had already been a momentous year for himself, in June 2017 Michael had the honour of being elected president of Airport Council International (ACI), the umbrella organisation of Europe’s international airports. “I am looking forward to continuing the successful work of my predecessors and bringing more visibility to the issues affecting the airport industry, and to the work of the ACI Europe team in Brussels,” he explains. “As ACI Europe president I will strive for a positive development of the European airport industry evaluating different interests and needs. Further to this, I will focus on the airport industry’s most pressing issues, namely security, the EU Aviation Strategy, climate action, the capacity crunch and digitalisation.”

One month prior to being name ACI president, Michael and his team had officially marked Munich Airport’s 25th anniversary with a week of events, beginning with an official state reception and a campus festival, before taking in public music days and two family aviation days. Michael also personally marked the occasion by writing and performing a special music video celebrating the success of the airport and its employees.

With his focus now on the next 25 years and beyond, Michael foresees growth remaining solid in the immediate future, with growth in passenger volumes anticipated to average five per cent in 2017/2018. Thesefigures could well increase further still with Lufthansa announcing its plans to station five Airbus A380’s and 15 A350 jets at the airport in the coming years.

“Since the airport opened in 1992, passenger volume has more than tripled to over 42 million and in the last five years alone, traffic has increased by almost 20 per cent. This trend will continue,” Michael concludes. “For Germany, the Federal Ministry of Transport expects air traffic to grow by about 60 per cent by the year 2030 compared to 2010. This will have a significant effect on the Munich hub, with its high share of transfer passengers. The construction of a third runway, which has been officially approved and has overcome all court challenges, is thus essential for keeping Munich and Bavaria on track for long-term growth. From a personal point of view, I have worked in big and medium-sized airports, but Munich Airport is by far the most beautiful in Europe, and maybe even in the world. Keeping it that way, and exposing this architectural wonder to even more passengers, is at the top of our agenda.”

Munich Airport
Europe’s only ‘Five Star Airport’
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017
Revenues for 2016 amongst top ten airports in the world