The recent openings of two global hubs—Beijing Daxing and the new Istanbul Airport—will have a limited impact on Europe’s hub systems, Munich Airport president and CEO Michael Kerkloh said.

“The fact that another airport is piling up in Beijing is conclusive, given the slot situation and the volume of traffic,” Kerkloh told ATW at the Airport of the Future conference in Moscow. “Airline alliances have been split into airports, but the new airport will grow rapidly.” Beijing Daxing, which opened Sept. 25, is a hub for SkyTeam alliance members, while Star Alliance airlines will remain at Beijing Capital.

The October 2018 opening of the new Istanbul Airport is also a remarkable development, Kerkloh said, but it is likely to compete with Gulf hubs, such as Dubai and Doha, rather than European ones.

“In some cases Istanbul also affects the hubs in Central Europe, of course. But everything now depends on whether Turkish Airlines is able to sustain the development as a hub carrier financially,” Kerkloh said. Turkish Airlines relocated from its former Istanbul Atatürk hub to the new airport in April.

He sees the new airport as recognition of the aviation sector’s significance in the overall development of Turkey. “Aviation just plays an important role there,” Kerkloh said.

Lufthansa will base two additional Airbus A380s at its Munich hub from 2020, boosting its A380 fleet based there to seven aircraft. The move will evenly split the total A380 fleet between Munich and Frankfurt, the airline’s main hub.

“This demonstrates that the hub system in Munich is able to do this. These large aircraft are well-utilized here, the feeder system works very well, and the customers love the A380.” Kerkloh said, noting that passengers seem to be more enthusiastic about the A380, the world’s largest airliner, than the carriers that operate them. “The airlines currently have a question mark on the A380 for economic reasons. But the A380 is still flying for the next 20, 30 years. We can increase our efficiency with the A380, especially in times of shortages of slots.”

Munich’s long-distance network might also grow by a further two destinations, he said.

Lufthansa currently has 32 long-range aircraft based at Munich, comprising A330s, A340s and A350s. “The secondary effect is, of course, that the feeder traffic with larger aircraft is also increasing.”

Asked if Munich Airport is benefiting from Lufthansa’s dissatisfaction with its capacity-strained Frankfurt hub, Kerkloh said, “I think that we benefit above all from our own strength. We have developed our own business model in Munich, where we operate Terminal 2 very successfully together with Lufthansa.”

Kerkloh said there has been more interest from airlines for flights to Munich from China, the US and Africa, but in some cases it is difficult to get the necessary traffic rights.

In 2018, Munich Airport reported another record-setting year: Total passenger traffic rose 4% to 46.3 million year-over-year. The number of takeoffs and landings increased 2.2% to more than 413,000.

“Munich will handle 48 million passengers this year,” Kerkloh said.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at