I like this picture of Munich Airport in March of 1997. The airport had one terminal then, and it knew it was overflowing with the expected 17 million passengers it handled that year.
Five years later the airport handled 23.1 million passengers. It then built another terminal and a main airport center, which is very much like a city. Airports need to constantly update and expand to keep passengers happily moving through their cities. The more amenities, the more airlines and passengers use that facility. Munich Airport has doctors, including an ophthalmologist and dentist, and a medical clinic. It has a church, lawyers, banks and pharmacies. And of course, there is much dining and shopping to be done, as well as many child services offered.
It its first year of operation—1949—Munich Airport handled 28,970 passengers. In 2012 it handled 38.4 million, more than double its passenger traffic of 15 years earlier. It is not the biggest airport or the one with everything, but it is a good illustration of how airports were—and are—bulging at the seams and have to expand to … well, expand. According to ACI, Munich ranked 30th in the World’s Top 50 Airports in 2012, is the second busiest airport in Germany after Frankfurt, and sixth busiest in Europe. London Heathrow is the largest European airport with around 70 million people handled annually.
For a very comprehensive look at airport traffic and growth, please take a look at our annual ATW/Arthur D. Little World Airport Report here. You will see that Asia is now the world’s largest market in terms of airport traffic, accounting for 28%, with North America with 26.8% and Western Europe at 26.1%.