European Aviation Symposium

Lufthansa wants to grow in Munich with bigger jets

Lufthansa’s Wilken Bormann (centre) and Munich Airport chief Michael Kerkloh (right) in discussion with moderator Jens Flottau (Aviation Week Network) at the European Airline Symposium.
Rita Münck
Lufthansa’s Wilken Bormann (centre) and Munich Airport chief Michael Kerkloh (right) in discussion with moderator Jens Flottau (Aviation Week Network) at the European Airline Symposium.

Lufthansa will fly past blocked plans for a third runway at Munich Airport by using larger planes to keep growing at its second-largest hub, according to a top manager.

Long-standing plans for a third runway at Munich Airport were put on ice last autumn by the new Bavarian coalition government of CSU and Free Voters. In a political compromise between the two parties, who disagree on the publicly controversial issue, they decided on a moratorium on planning activities for the next five years.

However, this decision will put increasing pressure on existing capacity at the second-largest airport in Germany, airport chief Michael Kerkloh told some 200 participants at the inaugural European Aviation Symposium at the airport’s Hilton hotel today. Munich already handles more than 46 million passengers a year with its two existing runways.

“If we don’t get any more capacity, then it will get complicated despite our highly efficient operation with two runways. The infrastructure planning of an airport is very complex and long-term. But that doesn’t seem to interest the public,” he criticised.

The moratorium will also create new challenges for the joint venture between Lufthansa and Munich Airport, which was created in 2003 to jointly operate the airport’s Terminal 2.

Wilken Bormann, CEO of Lufthansa’s Munich hub, explained that the German airline could cope with the capacity limitations for a certain time by using larger planes. At present, for example, Lufthansa has stationed five A380s at the airport, and is considering introducing two more of the world’s largest passenger plane there.

In addition, the airline is working on plans to decongest peak times in order to gain more time for transfer connections, he added. Kerkloh admitted the airport needs to improve passenger handling, especially baggage handling which still operates “like in the 1990s”.

Bormann underlined that the joint venture with Munich Airport is a long-term project and that the aviation group supports the plans for a third runway. “Over the years we have invested more than €1 billion here and we want a premium infrastructure,” he declared.

The hub chief also emphasised that Munich’s positioning as a ‘five-star airport’ includes the passenger mix. “More than half of the planes we operate at Munich have a first class,” he pointed out.

On the ground, this passenger mix plays a role at Terminal 2 where the joint venture is responsible for shops and catering in addition to flight operations. “We deliberately leave space. This creates a better atmosphere and ensures faster transfer times, where we are among the leaders in Europe,” explained Kerkloh.

This approach includes gate planning. For example, planes scheduled to fly to China dock at gates where there are plenty of nearby high-value shops. “We have a good overview of the passengers on the flights and their shopping patterns,” said the airport chief, referring to “retail-oriented aircraft positioning”.

Other topics at the two-day European Aviation Symposium, organised by aviation consultants Prologis, fvw and the Travel Industry Club, include aviation strategies and trends, the consequences of Brexit, and changes in distribution through NDC and new players such as Google.