It is Jost Lammers' ambition to achieve this demanding goal. The former CEO of Budapest Airport switched to Munich Airport (MUC) at the beginning of 2020, succeeding the famous Michael Kerkloh at the helm. Upon starting his assignment, the 54-year-old encountered a state-of-the-art airport with an extensive intercontinental network based primarily on passenger needs. However, from one day to the next, corona stopped MUC’s further ascent. Only cargo kept on going, becoming MUC’s main source of revenues.
CFG spoke with Mr. Lammers (J.L.) about MUC’s position in cargo, his personal visions and ambitions, and his team’s efforts to be acknowledged as 5-star cargo airport, following the numerous 5-Star Awards presented by Skytrax to Munich for its superb quality and services.
CFG: Mr. Lammers, as native of northern Germany, have you meanwhile adapted to the Bavarian way of life?
J.L.: Oh yes, I like the Bavarian way of life very much. My family has settled in very well here and we feel very much at home in Munich. Apart from these personal sensitivities, I have to say that my 1.5 years here in Munich were extremely challenging due to the corona crisis causing a sharp drop in traffic. The income from retail, shopping, gastronomy has dropped massively, as well as loss in parking fees, not to mention the airlines’ landing fees. I'm not a pessimist, but I think we're in for another difficult few months because of the current resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
CFG: Speaking about cargo: Which similarities exist and what are the main differences between BUD and MUC? You should know best given that, prior to becoming CEO of Munich Airport, you headed Budapest Airport for 12 years, where under your leadership, the BUD Cargo Center was built and put into operation in November 2019.
J.L.: Both airports rely heavily on the air freight business and are well positioned in their respective markets. However, there are 2 key differences: Munich, with its distinctive long-haul network, is primarily a hub for passengers. This means that most shipments are flown in the lower deck compartments of passenger airlines. In contrast, Budapest concentrates on full-freighter operations because their passenger traffic is not very pronounced. These differences, together with the economic environments in Hungary and southern Germany, have led to a situation in which air freight in Budapest is dominated by imports, while in Munich, traffic data evidence an almost balanced ratio of imports and exports.
And as far as freighters are concerned, they are also increasingly serving MUC as figures illustrate: from January to the end of September 2021, 47% of the total tonnage was transported on main decks. However, this is only an interim result; we dare to do even more freighter flights.
CFG: To do so, you need to convince freight forwarders based in southern Germany, and their industrial partners, to utilize MUC to uplift their exports, rather than truck the goods to Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, or Liège, to be loaded on board an aircraft there. What is your plan?
J.L.: That's true, but changing these habits is not easy due to historically grown supply chains. We have an excellent infrastructure here, coupled with short distances, state-of-the-art cargo facilities, and an impressive cluster of cargo producers in Munich and the surrounding region. Moreover, in our subsidiary Cagogate, the airlines at Munich Airport have an extremely competent partner specializing in the fast and reliable handling of cargo. In addition, we have built consolidation stations to optimize ground services. DHL has invested 70 million euros in its facility to expand its own e-commerce business. AirBridgeCargo has just come back, after a long absence, which strengthens the Far East market. To round it off: a lot is going on in air freight at Munich Airport. That's why I think it's fair to say that Munich Airport deserves the rating "5 stars" in the cargo business as well.
CFG: Nevertheless, the fact that the mass of goods is still being trucked to airports located 300 to 600 km off MUC, has not changed. That said, could Munich not put more emphasis on the environmental aspect? Because trucking is detrimental to the climate, setting off a lot of greenhouse gases.
J.L.: I fully agree. Especially since 40% of all air freight generated in Germany is produced in southern Germany. The problem is that all parties involved, producers, airlines, and forwarders have become accustomed to certain supply chains that start with trucking and end with it, unfortunately including road transports over longer distances. In this respect, we need a transformation that starts with a change in attitude. What is needed, are green supply chains based on regionality, at least when it comes to ground transportation of air freight.
Overall, I have to say that cargo is a winner of the crisis. There is more respect for the business than there used to be. Not only within the aviation sector, but also many people have become aware of the contribution air freight makes to their everyday needs, beyond the safe supply of medical goods.
CFG: Finally - is passenger traffic recovering meanwhile?
J.L.: It definitely is, benefitting cargo as well by adding much needed capacity to the market. In November, scheduled flights to Miami, Montreal, and Mexico City will complement our network. Singapore is another destination serviced, and we hope that Bangkok will follow soon, depending on the pandemic. Once quarantines end, we expect flights getting back to normal fast.
CFG: Thank you for the interview.
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