At a press conference held mid last week, Fraport, the owner / operator of Frankfurt’s Rhine- Main Airport, presented the results of two independent institutes regarding expected passenger growth there up until 2030.
The two institutes, MKmetric and Intraplan both came up with slightly different figures, but were in agreement with the fact that FRA’s present annual capacity of 64 million passengers will be
exceeded by year 2021.
Their (institutes) prognosis is that Germany’s number one airport will have need for facilities to cope with between 68 million and 73 million passengers per annum.
Will this really mean that Terminal 3 will become reality?
At first glance it would seem so!
A previous study undertaken by NACA (Netherlands Airport Consultants) had come to the conclusion that Frankfurt Airport would be seriously impaired and present quality standards would fall dramatically, if the passenger volume at the airport exceeded the 64 million passengers and when no new terminal capacity were to be at hand.
If today’s studies are correct, and there is no reason not to believe so, then Fraport will have surpassed the magic figure of 64 million per annum long before the year 2021.
But then there are still the politicians.
Legally speaking there is no reason why the airport cannot be extended with a new terminal.
The projected T3 was always planned to be built on the area previously known as Rhein-Main Airbase and which after the departure of the U.S. Air Force many years ago, was leveled and plans laid for the new T3 as well as extensive facility expansion in Cargo City South.
Until today, nothing much has happened at either location.
Actions against the airport by local residents, politicians not really caring what happens and delaying decisions as well as the economic downturn which particularly affected cargo flows - these have all lead to a status quo.
It seems now that the FRA airport management has had enough of indecision on the part of those who should be ensuring Frankfurt’s place as a leading airport for both passenger and cargo operations in Europe.
The Minister of Transport at the Hessian State, who is a member of the Green Party, although accepting the fact that the independent studies are correct, has openly stated that he will still “closely look at whether the new terminal is needed.”
Another delaying tactic?
If so, then it’s now time that FRA put their foot down and insist that this idiocy stops.
A “Forsa” study also recently showed that the majority of Hesse’s population stand behind the decision to build Terminal 3 and also supported the addition of the recent new runway. This apparently results from their knowing that the airport is of utmost importance as an economic gateway to the rest of the world.
In the same breath, they also indicated the need for better and more effective noise abatement system in and around the airport.
Night bans and noise abatement
Both valid issues and ones which have been on the agenda at FRA for many years.
However, when are local communities and vote winning politicians going to face up to the fact that the airport is here to stay and in many cases was there long before some residents even built their properties around the airport perimeter.
Yes!, noise abatement is needed and can be further enhanced. However, only when all are willing to sit around the same table. The noise won’t go away, but aircraft have become quieter although frequencies into and out of the airport have increased.
A night ban was pushed through which in essence may be welcomed and correct, but also ensures that the German national carrier faces untoward restrictions which economically are harsh.
Now, politicians, egged on by harsh critics of the airport want to extend this even further.
Frankfurt Airport is a job machine and certainly the most important one in the state of Hesse.
When are “responsible politicians” going to face up to this fact and stop this nonsense.
Hesse’s Minister of Transport has apparently come up with a seven point plan to alleviate noise even further.
Then! - get him to sit down with all concerned and make sure that discussions go in the right direction and not just sit up on the fence and see what the next couple of months or years might bring.
Cargo has suffered at Rhine-Main
The latest night ban restriction is not the only reason why cargo throughput at FRA is stagnating.
Plans were laid on the table a couple of years ago for expanding cargo handling facilities at FRA. Ground was leveled and areas were allocated for various handling entities.
Not much has happened in that direction.
Admittedly, the economic turndown and the resulting slowdown in air cargo transport forced many possible new tenants to rethink their strategies and put facility expansion plans on ice.
The night ban has ensured that there are no cargo flights operating into and out of FRA.
Night operations, especially departures, are important for some of the main cargo carriers due to planned arrival schedules in both the USA and the Far East.
Restricting departures to latest 23:00 hours local has put many of these flights “off the timetable” and certainly forced carriers to use other airports.
Departures for cargo transport up until midnight, might well have ensured that some carriers had not dropped FRA altogether.
Frankfurt Airport does not have competition in the area which could seriously harm its position as a passenger and freighter airport.
Other airports in the same area have their own niche products which basically could go hand in hand with FRA’s.
The addition of T3 will ensure that more long haul carriers with ample belly space will operate into FRA and give the shipping industry added capacity for exports out of the region.
The problem at FRA is that the airport is often “its own best enemy” in the sense that it has maybe not been forceful enough these past years to convince communities, politicians and the industry, that it is in danger of its position as a leading European airport being further eroded.
It’s high time that all concerned stop this bickering and put their heads together to come up with viable solutions.
The politicians and the shipping industry heads are the ones who must take the lead.
And - Fraport should ensure that internal study bodies which have been set up in the past, especially in cargo development, really get their act together and also come up with firm solutions on how to keep FRA above water.
The results of the study regarding T3 now lie with the Hesse State government.
If the Transport Minister feels, after so many years, that he has to look closely again, then we may well be still reporting on this in five years from now.
We would suggest that the Minister gets some real time advise on FRA’s future from those who know what they are talking about.
John Mc Donagh