Germany's Munich Airport reported (14-Jan-2013) a 2% year-on-year increase in passenger numbers to a new record of 38.4 million in 2012. The airport also reported its highest utlisation rate since the airport opened in 1992, with load factor increasing by 1 ppt to 74.5% as airlines deploy larger aircraft. The airport attributed the growth in passenger traffic to above-average gains in the European traffic segment. Services between Munich and continental destinations increased 3% to 23 million passengers. Munich Airport operator FMG CEO Michael Kerkloh said the airport once again "exceeded the Germany-wide average for traffic growth". Amid the Europe-wide economic and financial crisis, Munich Airport reported a 4.4% decline in airfreight and mail to 290,301 tons. Aircraft movements at the airport fell 2.9% to 398,039, with the airport unable to offer "additional connections at high-demand periods nor allow new airlines to set up operations here. That means that the demand from airlines and their passengers can now no longer be met", according to Mr Kerkloh. [more - original PR]
Munich Airport handles record 38.4 million pax in 2012, unable to meet new demand
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Eurowings: new Munich routes outsourced to airberlin. Frankfurt hub may be next for Lufthansa's LCC
When Lufthansa began to transfer point-to-point short haul routes to its LCC Germanwings in 2013 it specifically excluded routes to/from its two main hubs at Munich and Frankfurt. Although its two main hubs have been less penetrated by LCCs than many other major European airports, this is changing. Moreover, competitor LCCs are growing rapidly across Germany and in other Lufthansa Group home markets. Even Air France-KLM established a Munich base for its LCC Transavia in summer 2016 (but this is under review). More ominously, Ryanair is to enter Frankfurt in summer 2017.
Lufthansa first revealed in summer 2016 that it was considering opening a Munich base for its LCC operations, now grouped under the Eurowings brand. On 21-Dec-2016 it announced plans to base four A320 family aircraft at Munich for 32 Eurowings routes from summer 2017.
Perhaps it was always inevitable that Eurowings would eventually extend to selected routes from Frankfurt and Munich, but agreements with pilots were understood to have limited the group's flexibility. Confirmation that the operation of Eurowings routes at Munich will be outsourced to airberlin under wet lease appears to have loosened this restriction. Eurowings routes from Frankfurt are also being considered.
Lufthansa and Etihad bedfellows - at last - but unions may make marriage a distant prospect
There can be no understating the symbolic change in mindset of Lufthansa agreeing to partner with Etihad. Lufthansa has spent the better part of a decade rallying against Gulf airlines to the press, lobbying in Europe's power corridors and seeking a range of aeropolitical measures to wind back new competitors. Etihad has been the prime target for its investment and ongoing top-ups in a range of European airlines including Lufthansa's home competitor, the failing airberlin. Despite that, it is not well known that the two have come close to a liaison before, suggesting that each sees an intrinsic logic in a relationship.
The partnership has potential to be more significant than Emirates-Qantas, Qatar-IAG or Etihad-AF-KLM. But for now it is limited in scope and caution should be exercised in extrapolating too far at this stage.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is seeking new growth platforms that sidestep the flagship business' uncompromising unions who would seemingly prefer a status quo that exists only in memory. Their support will be necessary if the partnership is to work and grow. Then Lufthansa, which has rallied the Star Alliance and JV partners against Gulf airlines, will need to explain its change of heart. For now Lufthansa will not partner on Etihad's beyond-Abu Dhabi network, a move that would embrace the fundamental business plan of Etihad and peers. That upside remains a matter for speculation.