FR0812-VIP-Interview EggenschwilerVIP-Interview: Michael Eggenschwiler

President of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Verkehrsflughäfen (German Airports Association, ADV) and CEO of Hamburg Airport

FLUG REVUE: How does the position of airports in Germany compare with that of airports internationally?

Michael Eggenschwiler: In Frankfurt and Munich we have two hubs which are players in the first division and handle, respectively, over 50 and 30 million passengers per year. On top of that we have airports in the important economic regions, such as Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin. To play our part in keeping Germany competitive as a business location, we need to expand moderately. The airports are essential to keeping the economy of an export country in the heart of Europe internationally competitive. Moreover, we need strong airports if we are to retain our position compared with our competitors in London, Paris or Amsterdam. Today customers select their flight connections internationally. Moreover, airline alliances like Star, oneworld and SkyTeam operate beyond national borders too.

FR: How is the consolidation going on in the airline industry affecting the airports?

Michael Eggenschwiler: In Germany, we have two major providers in the form of Lufthansa and Air Berlin, and it is possible that a third could emerge. That is very positive for competition and moreover it strengthens the entire system. We are in favour of transparent competition, but we oppose behind-the-scene support and subsidies.

FR: How do you view the present environmental debate insofar as it affects the airports?

Michael Eggenschwiler: Aviation has no reason to hide or to have a bad conscience when it comes to the subject of the environment. The airports have been doing their homework on this subject for decades, for example, over noise control. The same thing applies to emissions. At most airports the operating noise level has dropped back massively since it ceased to be profitable to operate noisy aircraft. We will increasingly orient our charges and fees towards environmental aspects. Then there is a whole range of low-level improvements. For example, apron vehicles can be made much cleaner to operate if they run on gas. The power supply on the ground can be designed in such a way that the use of loud and polluting auxiliary power units onboard the aircraft can largely be eliminated.

FR: What needs to be done as regards cross-linking between transport modes? What is the position of the airports here?

Michael Eggenschwiler: For every distance there is one transport option which makes the best sense. From Hamburg to Berlin or from Frankfurt to Cologne the high-speed rail link is the transport mode of choice. Between Hamburg and Munich or Berlin and Saarbrücken the aircraft is the best suited. Then there are the interchanges between rail and road transport at the airports. Thus, for example, in December we will finally get a suburban railway connection directly to the terminal in Hamburg. The various transport modes need to work together, customers will appreciate that.

FR: Is the aviation industry heading for a crisis too?

Michael Eggenschwiler: One should not tempt Providence by talking about a crisis where none exists. Sure, we are experiencing consolidation at the moment. But aviation is a growth industry and will continue to grow at a moderate rate. In my view, excessive state handouts and interventions are not helpful. We need fair and equal conditions of competition. Airlines and airports that are well managed will survive the cyclical fluctuations comfortably.

FR: Are the political assumptions regarding the development of infrastructure at the airports right? Is financial support unproductive at many regional airports?

Michael Eggenschwiler: We need a clear structure that goes beyond a preoccupation with isolated locations. The big airports make a critical contribution to the location factors for the business regions. Smaller airports are important to inter-plant transportation and regional links. But there is no point in investing too much in the infrastructure in some places if money is then lacking elsewhere. Municipalities and federal states must not look at air transport in isolation. But there are enough examples of successful collaboration, so I remain optimistic in this area.

FR: What is the position as regards plans for the airport in the year 2020 or 2030? Has the appropriate research been set in place?

Michael Eggenschwiler: In Germany we have good cooperation between the airports, German air traffic control services provider Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) and institutions like the German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR), which are conducting research on further development of the air transport system as a whole. Thus, for example, there is a project in Hamburg under which the DLR, the DFS and the airport are exploring and trying out new concepts for taxi circuit management. We need to lay the foundations now to ensure that we still have growth capacity in 10 or 15 years' time. But we won't manage that if we go it alone. All the parties involved in air transport need to get working together as soon as possible.

Heiko Stolzke was asking the questions.

From FLUG REVUE 12/2008

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