According to its website today, the Austrian Lilihill Capital Group GmbH plans to invest more than one billion euros over the next 10 years in establishing the “AVIATION CITY Klagenfurt”.
The AVIATION CITY Klagenfurt project consists of the following focus areas:
- The new AIRPORT Klagenfurt
- AVITEL – the Trade Fair, Congress and Airport Hotel
- AVICON – the Congress and Event Center
- AVIFAIR – the Alpe Adria Trade Fair and Event Center
- AVIMOTION Tec-Park – the new, innovative Technology and Development Park
- AVILOG – the two Logistics and Business Parks
Klagenfurt to become Europe’s most modern airport by 2024
Lilihill’s ambitious plans aim to establish “The new AIRPORT Klagenfurt” as the most modern and efficient airport in Europe already by 2024, with a new airport complex and terminal boasting state of the art infrastructure and modern architecture. The overall focus is to make Klagenfurt a business center and attract more airlines and destinations to the region. There is even talk of setting up an own airline, according to Radio Tirol news on 19 AUG 19. Does this include a freighter service?
From a cargo point of view, 140 million euros will go into constructing the AVILOG Logistics and Business Parks between 2020 and 2030. Once completed, they will cover an area of 136,500 m², and create 800 new, long-term jobs. Their location directly at the motorway junction, and close to established industrial zones, is seen as a chance to develop the north east area of the airport located in the southern part of Austria, near the Slovenian and Italian border.
Klagenfurt Airport has been struggling in recent years
Since its passenger record of half a million passengers in 2005, Klagenfurt Airport – Austria’s smallest airport in its sixth largest city - has suffered (mainly) declining figures over the years, not helped by Austrian Airlines experimenting with rail service connections, the military closing its helicopter base in 2015, and the airport’s landing strip requiring long overdue renovation. A handful of low-cost carriers make up the remaining operators. The Austrian Government considered partly privatising the airport, and in 2018 the Lilihill Capital Beteiligung GmbH gained 74.90% ownership of the operator Kaerntner Flughafen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, together with the Kaerntner Beteiligungsverwaltung who own 20.08% and the city of Klagenfurt who retain 5.02%.
Plans to attract major logistics and cargo operators have long been under discussion, given the airport’s relatively close connection to the harbours of the Adriatic Sea, mainly Koper in nearby Slovenia, and the existing airport road and rail connections. Yet, according to the “Kleine Zeitung” back in 2015, Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto then stated that the airport is not suited for cargo operations due to noise complaints (“many of the residents already get upset at the sound of a lawnmower”, he said at the time) and the night curfew. A cargo airport needs to be open for flights around the clock, he explained.
Does Klagenfurt Airport have a career in cargo?
Prior to that, in 2011, in an Austrian Aviation Net interview, the then Airport Managing Director, Johannes Gatterer, stated that Air Cargo Hub plans had been discussed already before he took on his position. Yet, at the time he confessed that he could not imagine Klagenfurt as being anything other than a small player on the cargo scene, since cargo hubs are successful if located near large production units or huge consumer markets, and Klagenfurt has neither. Instead, the airport could act as a connection to the Alps-Adriatic region and to seaports such as Trieste or Koper. However, he pointed out that freight is very strong in Ljubljana (just 70 km away) and plays a more significant role in the larger airports of Graz, Vienna and Linz. For Schenker, however, the location here at Klagenfurt Airport is strategically good: "We also have the motorway and the railway here right next to the airport.”
Schenker invested 10 million euros in a logistics terminal spanning 35,000m² in 2011, with the plan of making it an air cargo hub for Eastern Europe and has its own rail connection.
Given that the competitor situation has become even more fierce recently (forwarding agent CargoPartner is inaugurating its iLogistics Center in Ljubljana this September, whilst Vienna Airport opened their new Pharma handling center in December 2018 and have more plans to extend the airport), it appears farfetched to believe that a huge money invest will make any great difference to Klagenfurt Airport’s chance on the cargo scene.
Please stay tuned, more on KLU is to follow.