MAA BV, the private operator of Maastricht Aachen Airport, has returned the operating concession to the Province of Limburg. The company considers the growth possibilities to be too limited due to the many restrictions imposed by the authorities. The Province of Limburg will take over the operation for 1 euro.
MAA BV was set up in 2016, when Trade Centre Global Investments (TGCI), acquired the concession for the commercial exploitation of the airport until 2026. This made MAA the only privately-operated airport in the Netherlands.
TGCI was controlled by Ismail Durmaz, owner of the Amsterdam-headquartered Global GSA Group. This March, TGCI - along with MAA BV - was sold to Candeger BV, of which the same Mr Durmaz owns 50.5%, the other 49.5% being controlled by Israeli brothers Avy and Danny Reik. In January, the Reik brothers had sold their international express company, Flying Cargo Group, to FedEx Express
When MAA BV took over the MAA operation, the airport handled 250,000 passengers and 75,000 tonnes of cargo. The ambition was to grow to 700,000 passengers and some 200,000 tonnes of freight in a few years’ time. According to Mr Durmaz, this ambition cannot be fulfilled due to “the constraints imposed on this wonderful airport.”
Runway restriction kills business
The fact that only 2,500 m of the 2,750 m runway can be used due to environmental reasons (noise cap), is no doubt a decisive factor in Mr Durmaz’s decision to hand the concession back to the Province. For the cargo operators, this has impacted both the MTOW and the range.
By 2024, MAA wanted to reach 700,000 passengers and 200,000 tons of freight, but the province does not want to allow more growth in the coming years than a total of about 30 percent. Durmaz states in a written statement that this stood in the way of "a successful long-term operation".
No new concessionaire in sight
For one symbolic euro (sic!), the MAA BV shares have been bought by NV Holding Businesspark Luchthaven Maastricht (HBLM), which is 100% owned by the Province. The provincial management is struggling to reconcile the economic potential of the airport with the nuisance to the residents, who also claim to suffer from the movements generated by Liege Airport, a mere 20 km away.
According to the responsible provincial councillor, Joost van den Akker, MAA will remain part of (Dutch) Limburg’s basic infrastructure, even if the Province is not looking for a new concessionaire for the time being.
Altered operating conditions are needed
“We are working towards a new application for an airport decree in which, apart from the economic opportunities offered by the airport, the investment climate, and the job market, the environmental impact is clearly included in the decision making.”
Mr van den Aker went on to say: “Through NV HBLM, the Province can provide more guidance on the considerations to be made and the approach to be taken to the nuisance. In this way we maintain the balance between economic anchoring in the region and the quality of life for local residents,” said Mr van den Akker.
The takeover by the province has no consequences for personnel, the companies based at the airport, travelers and the surrounding area. Mr Durmaz will continue to be involved in MAA as an advisor.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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