Press: Flying high for a quarter century

25 years ago Munich Airport was ready for take-off: MUC's rise from a brand-new airport to a major hub


Munich Airport is about to celebrate its 25th birthday. But its historical roots go back much further. The starting gun for the construction project on the "Erding North" site was the decision by the Bavarian state government, announced in August 1969, to build the new airport on that parcel of land, 29 kilometers north of the city. This was the culmination of a long search for a suitable location in which 20 potential options in and around Munich were explored. With the planning permission ruling in July 1979, the District Government of Upper Bavaria granted official approval for the construction of a new airport – 10 years after the final decision on the site. However, just months after the earth movers broke ground in November 1980, everything again ground to a halt in April 1981. Under a ruling from the Bavarian Administrative Court, the work was ordered to stop. It was not until four years later, in March 1985, that crews were able to resume construction based on a reduced design imposed in a court ruling.

The official opening of the new airport took place on May 11 1992 – six days ahead of the launch of full flight operations – with 2,000 invited guests in attendance in the airport's largest maintenance hangar. This was followed on Saturday, May 16 with the main moving operation from the old Riem location to the new airport. This huge undertaking, which received extensive coverage in international media, involved around 5,000 people and 700 trucks. The smooth execution of this feat – with no delays in the launch of operations or in the flight schedule, either in the evening at the old Riem location or the next morning at the brand-new airport near Erding – earned plaudits in Germany and abroad. It also earned FMG, the airport operating company, a global reputation as an expert in airport relocations that it has since converted into consulting contracts all over the world.

The new airport's rapid rise to take its place among the leading hubs in Europe started in the mid-1990s when Lufthansa stationed its first two widebody jets in Munich. Willi Hermsen, then the CEO of Munich Airport, and his Lufthansa counterpart Jürgen Weber were quick to see that a functional transformation into a major European hub would open up enormous opportunities. The two companies pooled their resources as strategic growth partners and in 1998 signed an agreement on the joint construction, financing and operation of Munich Airport's Terminal 2 – the first such cooperative arrangement between an airport and an airline anywhere in the world.

Before the cornerstone for Terminal 2 was laid in April 2000, another major expansion project was successfully completed. With the opening of the Munich Airport Center (MAC) in September 1999, the airport gained a state-of-the-art multifunctional service center. Under its spectacular glass-membrane roof, the MAC is home not only to shops and restaurants, but also medical practices, conference rooms and corporate offices. It also provides an ideal setting for Airbräu, the world's first brewery in an airport, complete with a traditional beer garden. Equally popular with passengers, visitors and airport staff, Airbräu has developed into a favorite meeting spot at Munich Airport.

With the opening of Terminal 2 in June 2003, Munich Airport gained urgently needed passenger handling capacity. The terminal, used exclusively by Lufthansa and its partner airlines, was designed right from the drawing board to meet the needs of connecting traffic. Within a short time it was garnering rave reviews from users for its wide range of shopping and dining options, attractive quiet zones and work areas, and the many services and amenities available.

In 2005, in the World Airport Awards hosted by the London-based Skytrax Institute, Munich was selected as "Europe's Best Airport" for the first time. These annual awards are based on a survey of several million passengers worldwide. Since then, the Bavarian hub has earned that title 10 times – most recently in March 2017. With the growth in hub traffic following the opening of the second terminal, there has been a steady rise in the number of long-haul routes serving attractive destinations in the Americas, Asia and Africa.

The improved connectivity benefits not only the people and companies in the airport's catchment area, but also increasing numbers of passengers who use Munich for a stopover. This continuous growth in the numbers of connecting passengers has been a major factor behind the above-average gains in traffic at Munich Airport. Between 2002 and 2008 alone, the annual passenger total increased by more than 10 million to 34.5 million. After a brief dip following the global financial crisis in 2009, the airport has set a new passenger record every year since 2010.

With the construction of the first midfield terminal at a German airport, Munich Airport teamed up with Lufthansa for the next important expansion project. The satellite terminal, built to handle 11 million passengers per year, went into operation on time and within budget in April 2016. It has increased Munich Airport's total capacity to 50 million passengers per year.

For the current year, Munich Airport expects to set yet another record, with total traffic in the neighborhood of 44 million passengers. Moreover, the number of take-offs and landings in 2017 is expected to exceed the 400,000 mark by a significant margin. As a result, the number of aircraft movements since the opening year of 1992 has more than doubled, and passenger traffic has nearly increased fourfold during the same period.

In the 25 years since it opened, Munich Airport has become an important node in the global air transportation network. The Bavarian hub is now linked to more than 250 destinations on four continents. With around 35,000 employees working at 500 companies and public authorities operating on the airport campus, it is also Bavaria's largest workplace. For the Bavarian tourism industry and the many export-driven businesses in the state, Munich Airport is firmly established as a key competitive factor, setting it apart from competing regions worldwide. The airport itself has also continued to deliver excellent financial performance: With consolidated revenues of 1.4 billion euros, FMG posted a record profit of 150 million euros last year.

Dr. Michael Kerkloh, the CEO of Munich Airport: "On the occasion of this big anniversary, we can look back at an unparalleled success story. Over the past 25 years our Bavarian air transportation hub has made enormous contributions to prosperity and growth for our entire state. As the operating company, we are going to continue doing everything in our power to ensure that the airport remains an equally valuable asset in the future."

Dr. Markus Söder, the chairman of the FMG Supervisory Board: "Munich's Franz Josef Strauss Airport is Bavaria's gateway to the world. Its outstanding facilities and performance make it a decisive factor for the future of Bavaria and our economic competitiveness. To make sure that the airport will still live up to that role in 25 years, we have to set the stage now and adapt the infrastructure. Munich Airport needs the third runway."

Words of welcome by CEO Dr. Michael Kerkloh

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