Making up lost ground with rising air cargo demand

After a massive drop in passenger traffic at airports worldwide, we saw airports investing in cargo infrastructure development during the pandemic to keep themselves out of murky waters. The second-busiest airport in Germany (in terms of passenger traffic) after Frankfurt Airport, and the ninth-busiest airport in Europe – the Munich airport leaned towards the same trend and recorded significant numbers despite the pandemic woes.

Markus Heinelt, Director Traffic Development Cargo at Munich Airport, in this exclusive interview, shares with us the impact of the pandemic on the airport, reasons behind the significant growing cargo volume at the airport, his future outlook for the air cargo market and much more. Edited excerpts:

The unprecedented time of COVID brought out the roughest times for the aviation sector. What impact did it had on Munich Airport?

As with all airports worldwide, there was a massive drop in traffic figures at Munich Airport too. In 2020, for example, Munich recorded just under a quarter of the number of passengers compared to 2019, and the economic loss last year was around 320 million Euros. The airport company had already initiated a large number of short-term countermeasures at the beginning of the crisis and successfully strengthened its liquidity and ability to act through strict expenditure management, postponing capital expenditure and introducing short-time working, among other measures.

With the increasing lifting of global travel restrictions, traffic has also picked up significantly in Munich since the summer of 2021. However, traffic experts believe that air traffic will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2024 at the earliest.

Q] As per latest reports, the volume cargo transported at Munich Airport has gone up 40% on 2019 levels. What are the factors that contributed to the increasing volume?

The 40% increase relates to pure freighter flights and are based on various reasons. First of all, Munich counts as an important economic and industrial location and about 41% of all German airfreight comes from our Southern German area. The companies located in that region include many successful global players and market leaders from the automotive, electronics, medical technology, biotechnology and aerospace sectors, who depend on efficient transport routes to destinations all over the world. Their business is currently on top level.

Munich Airport as the biggest cargo hub in South Germany is offering a whole range of advantages like short distances, extreme speed and only one location for air cargo handling as the outstanding features. More than 100 logistics companies are operating at our airport too. Combined with the fact that the direct passenger flights on long-haul connections, in particular to and from Asia, are by no means back to the pre Corona levels due to the still existing entry restrictions, the belly capacities for cargo are still missing while the freight volume and demand for cargo capacity is still extremely high, more and more pure freighters to and from Munich are now being used.

Q] What initiative are being taken up by the airport to enhance cargo handling operations and make them more resilient?

Since Munich Airport is aware of the importance of air freight traffic for the export-oriented South German economy, it has made the further development of the cargo business an explicit part of the strategic Planning. In the case of new buildings, we take into account the issue of digitalization and efficiency from the very beginning. For example, with the construction of the new DHL cargo building, Munich will be enormously strengthened and upgraded as an airfreight location. With the new facility, DHL expands its capacity at the Munich site six-fold. Apart from the gross floor area of more than 8,000 square meters, the entire area covers 20,000 square meters – including truck parking spaces, security gates, etc.

We are also currently planning a new 20,000 square meter truck parking lot, which will allow automated slot allocation via telematics control. This project will simplify processes, save time and provide more capacities through additional parking spaces. In addition, we offer excellent growth opportunities and are a reliable partner thanks also to our shareholder system of city, federal and state government.

This is an abridged version of the original interview that was published in the December edition of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.

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