Jost Lammers experienced a very sad moment for him in winter. The country froze in lockdown, and the airport manager walked past the numerous screens in Terminal 2, on which the destinations are usually written: New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and all the other metropolises in the world are usually read there. And now, on this winter day? All black. Only the first screen was filled, and not even completely.
Corona hit Munich Airport and the entire aviation industry hard. In the first quarter of 2021, the operating company counted only 570,000 passengers. For comparison: in the summer of 2019 there were around four million in August alone. There is generally less flow in winter, but this winter it was dramatic.
Lammers is now all the happier when it comes to announcing new figures. Because the balance of the Corona summer 2021 shows a trend reversal. 1.8 million passengers used Munich Airport for their trips last August. 170 destinations are now being controlled from Munich again, compared to the times before Corona that is 80 percent. The passenger numbers are still a long way from those of the pre-pandemic era, but given the situation in winter, they are still cause for joy for Lammers. “There is life again,” says the manager of his airport.
In addition to the many tourists, Lammers sees more people in suits and with wheeled suitcases hurrying down the aisles. “The business travelers are returning,” he observes. This group plays a particularly important role for Munich Airport, after all, the “Premiumhub” program created in cooperation with Lufthansa is primarily tailored to business customers. Particularly in the short and medium-haul segment, according to Lammers – also due to the large number of business travelers – there is “permanently stable demand”.
Another reason for the upward trend is the large number of feeder flights that bring passengers from smaller airports to Munich, from where the passengers then embark on their intercontinental flight. But it is precisely these flights over short distances that, in the opinion of all climate protectors and some politicians, should soon no longer exist. Lammers also has the ecological aspect in mind when making his future forecast – and advocates connecting the airport even better to the rail network. Salzburg or Nuremberg, for example, would be at a distance for which no air shuttle would be necessary. However, the expansion of the rail network must take place before a possible ban on short-haul flights. Otherwise the passengers would no longer change in Munich, but on the Bosporus or in the Gulf region. “You have to change something,” says Lammers, “but you have to make sure that you maintain competitiveness.”
In order to maintain its position in international air traffic and to prepare for the future, Munich Airport is currently advancing three major construction projects. In addition to a new gate at Terminal 1 as well as an innovation center and an airport academy, in which the employees are to receive training and further education, the construction of a rail tunnel below the taxiways is also being pushed. A railway line from Freising to Erding is to be built. The “Erdinger Ringschluss” will make it easier to reach the airport from the south-east Bavarian region and the Salzburg region.
In the long term, Lammers also hopes that the airport will be linked to Deutsche Bahn long-distance transport, as is the case in Frankfurt or Amsterdam, for example. First, however, the airport manager is looking forward to the coming winter and thus “more difficult times” again – even if the corona consequences are no longer as drastic and the boards at Terminal 2 should not be as empty as they were this year.