Second Frankfurt airport continues on growth course

Posted: 28 September 2007 | Jörg Schumacher, Managing Director, Frankfurt-Hahn Airport | No comments yet

In the middle of the so-called ‘Blue Banana’ – Europe’s prime business region located between Marseille and London – Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is in the process of writing a real success story. Around 100 kilometres away from the metropolis of Frankfurt am Main, this second Frankfurt airport has grown into an important international commercial airport within just a few years.

In the middle of the so-called ‘Blue Banana’ – Europe’s prime business region located between Marseille and London – Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is in the process of writing a real success story. Around 100 kilometres away from the metropolis of Frankfurt am Main, this second Frankfurt airport has grown into an important international commercial airport within just a few years.

Significance of being in the centre of Europe

Within an extremely short period of time, Hahn has made a name for itself as a low-cost airport for passenger traffic. Almost unnoticed by the greater public, this up-and-coming airport has also attained international importance in the area of cargo. For several years already, Frankfurt-Hahn has ranked among the important cargo hubs throughout Europe and the world and is continuing to enjoy enormous growth rates. In Germany, it takes fourth place behind Frankfurt, Cologne-Bonn and Munich and is now 15th in Europe and 67th in the world. It handled more than 266,000 tonnes of airfreight in 2006, 143,000 of these in the form of trucked freight.

This young airport is situated in the heart of several important economic centres: the Rhine-Main area, Cologne/Bonn and Saar-Lor-Lux are located only 120 km away. As a result of the expansion of the European Union in 2004, the ‘Blue Banana’ region of economic growth began shifting away from the Benelux countries to move further east. Hence, all markets can be reached easily from Frankfurt-Hahn. Its advantageous location in the centre of Europe, its 24-hour operating permit and free slots, are a few of its main competitive advantages. Attractive airport fees, demand-orientated handling fees and easy accessibility of all sites on the airport grounds are more of its virtues.

The airport’s runway has just been extended to 3,800 metres and thanks to the airport’s modern, category IIIa instrument landing system it is able to continue operating flights, even in more difficult weather conditions. The airport’s coordinated workflows and internal logistics are also beneficial, as is the presence of all important authorities on site for handling all approval procedures. All relevant service providers can also be found at the airport: customs clearance, the Federal Border Police, catering, cleaning, refuelling, immigration, crew transport, veterinary and plant inspection service. All of this makes for an uncomplicated service from the first inquiry to the completion of the contract, including dealings with the public authorities, as well as pre and post-carriage.

Particular emphasis is placed on flexibility, individualised customer services and uncomplicated processes. This philosophy is finding ever-greater approval among large numbers of airlines, freight handling companies and brokers. While many German airports treat freight merely as supplementary cargo on passenger flights, aircraft intended exclusively for transporting import and export goods are being used on a large scale at Frankfurt-Hahn. The commissioning of the extended runway will stimulate the further growth of the airport’s cargo sector and will enable cargo airlines to make more efficient use of their aircraft.

In only twelve years, Frankfurt-Hahn has built up an all-round commercial airport on the 560-hectare grounds of the former military airfield, Hahn Airbase. In line with business development, the infrastructure is progressing successively and in a commercially compatible way. In 2006, new remote stands were built, primarily for the world’s biggest Antonovs, Boeings and Airbuses, so that there are now eight designated ramp positions for wide bodied jets available on the total apron area of 140,000 sqm. Since 1998, the airport operating company has invested around ?170 million in developing the young airport and plans call for investments of approximately another e140 million between 2008 and 2011. These funds will be used modularly depending on the planned traffic development.

Professional ground-based cargo handling

At the same time that the stands for the wide-bodied aircraft were being built to accommodate ‘airborne’ demand, the ‘groundside’ needs were being met by developing a new cargo handling area in the north of the airport grounds, christened Cargo Nord (North). Last January the new cargo access road opened for business. Here, various cargo-handling companies have also made large investments in development. Apart from ACL Advanced Cargo Logistic (ACL), other cargo handling companies, such as Fraport Cargo Services (FCS) in cooperation with Hahn Cargo Services (HCS) and VG Cargo, have just begun operations at their new cargo logistics centres in the Cargo Nord area, with direct access to the apron.

For cargo airlines, the quality of the cargo turnaround on offer is a key criterion for choosing an airport. In addition to documentation, customs declarations and short-term storage, the cargo handlers also take over global airfreight logistics, forwarding cargo to trucks and much, much more. The operation is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

ACL opened its air freight logistics centre right on the apron in March 2001, which is considered to be one of the most modern air freight handling centres in Europe. The operational concept of this air cargo handling company is giving increasing importance to cutting-edge technologies. Hence, the use of compatible software has high priority in documentation, as do the IT support systems in freight handling. The technical equipment includes a fully automatic ULD (Unit Load Device), a storage system with an elevating transfer vehicle (which serves 125 storage spaces for ULDs), four freezers and four cooling stations. The moving truck dock (MTD) serves, by way of the road feeder system, five truck-docking stations with integrated weighing units. Inside the hall, retractable workstations, a sophisticated donkey and slave pallet concept and implied barcode and scanner technology, make it easy to set up and take down the ULDs. Special rooms for perishables, valuables, hazardous goods and small animals, allow for professional interim storage and handling of special freight and live animals.

The new Bucher Cargo Centre was opened by its subsidiary HCS in November 2006. The investor of the 6,800-sqm hall with an investment volume of around e6 million is Bucher, a group of medium-sized companies, which has been doing business at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport since 1993. The hall’s main user is FCS – a wholly owned subsidiary of Fraport AG. In cooperation with HCS, FCS offers end-to-end freight handling. In addition, customers can also find transportation solutions between Hahn and Frankfurt. In 2006, HCS’ second year of business, the company moved around 36,000 metric tonnes of air cargo. Development is strongly aimed upward. Special technical facilities include both an integrated freezer room as well as a refrigerated area for perishables. The modern office building has around 1,400 sqm of space, is air-conditioned and will be occupied primarily by airlines and handling companies.

In June 2007, VG Cargo GmbH inaugurated its new, ultramodern cargo terminal. Just five years after the cargo handling company’s founding, it built a logistics hall right on the apron with around 10,000 sqm of storage space and 2,300 sqm of office space. The TAPA-certified (Transported Asset Protection Association) warehouse features an X-ray security system and meets the highest standards of security. Automated volume and weight measurements, as well as constant quantity and marking checks, ensure the best possible handling. The investment volume of the construction project, which was finished in a mere eight months, amounted to around nine million euros. VG Cargo offers around-the-clock handling, customs clearance, and transportation – all from the same full service provider. Some of the cargo is shipped using the company’s own vehicle fleet. This cargo handling company specialises in the most difficult kinds of freight, such as ‘oversized cargo’ and special shipments.

These new cargo terminals are built according to the currently effective aviation security provisions. They boast CCTV and meet all of the security standards of their international clientele.

Taking to the skies with prestigious cargo airlines

When Fraport AG joined Hahn Airport as main shareholder in 1998, MNG Airlines was the first airfreight carrier to head for Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. This Turkish airline uses an Airbus A300 for its five weekly cargo flights from Hahn. Since then, scheduled cargo airlines, such as Aeroflot, Air Armenia, Air France Cargo, Egypt Air and Qantas Freight have been added and are continuing to expand their operations at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. Recently, Etihad Crystal Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo began running regular scheduled cargo services.

Aeroflot Cargo moved its European base from Luxembourg to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport in 2002 and has since chalked up enormous growth rates. At present, this Russian airfreight carrier is sending an average of fourteen flights per week to the Middle East, the Far East, Russia and the CIS. The European hub in Hahn is one of the biggest Aeroflot cargo bases in the world – next to Moscow, Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk. In 2007, Aeroflot Cargo is planning again to enhance its presence and beef up the cargo fleet stationed at Hahn.

The four DC-10 aircraft currently stationed there will be successively replaced by MD-11 Freighters. By 2008, the number of MD-11s stationed at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is supposed to be raised to six. This means a considerable increase in carrying capacity – a DC-10 can carry around 65 metric tonnes of cargo, while an MD-11 can take up to 90 metric tonnes.

In early May, Etihad Crystal Cargo moved its German airfreight services from Frankfurt International Airport to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. Since 3rd May the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, headquartered in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, has been flying four times per week to Frankfurt-Hahn. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, one of the three Airbus A300-600RFs, with a loading capacity of 44 metric tonnes, takes off from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. One of the reasons given for the move was the attractive operating and cost environment, as well as the great flexibility offered by the customer-friendly 24-hour business hours. Frankfurt-Hahn is one of the main destinations of Crystal Cargo for cargo-only flights. The airfreight service to the airport, supplements the cargo capacity that Etihad Airways offers on its daily passenger flights to the airports in Frankfurt am Main and Munich. The company handling the cargoes at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is ACL.

Emirates SkyCargo, the airfreight division of the international Emirates airline based in Dubai, has expanded its business in Germany and has been offering a weekly cargo connection from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Toledo, Ohio in the U.S.A. and back since early June. This route is flown by 747-400F-type jets with a cargo volume of 120 metric tonnes. Fifty percent of the capacities on both routes have been sold to a single customer, Schenker. Every Saturday, Emirates SkyCargo leaves Dubai International Airport for Frankfurt-Hahn Airport on commission of Schenker, arriving Sunday morning in Toledo. On Monday, the flight goes from Toledo back to Dubai via Hahn.

This new airfreight offer from Schenker, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn railways, is tailored to the needs of customers in the electronics, automotive, engineering and clothing industries. Emirates SkyCargo, the airfreight division of Emirates, has already won several international awards and serves 89 destinations in 59 countries around the world. The cargo is handled at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport largely by FCS.

Air France Cargo has been running a transhipment centre for the entire German and Austrian road feeder service at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. The volume of air cargo transhipment is more than 120,000 metric tonnes per year. The cargo terminal, with an investment volume of roughly e12 million, has around 9,000 sqm of cargo transhipment area.

Furthermore, a large number of brokers and freight forwarding agents, such as Charter Service Niklas, Chapman Freeborn, Danzas, Schenker, Georgi Transporte and S.A.T. Düsseldorf, regularly make use of the airport’s advantages for freight charter services. They focus mainly on special shipments. This is where Frankfurt-Hahn Airport also counts as an ideal transhipment point for flights of relief goods from well-known relief organisations to crisis areas all over the world. These are flown by one of the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonov 124.
The range of cargo goods flown daily includes not only textiles and technical devices such as video cameras, flat screens, mobile telephones or vehicles, but also perishables such as fruit and vegetables imported from Egypt by Egypt Air, for instance. Even live animals, such as sea lions, gorillas, tigers and polar bears, as well as edible crawfish, are part of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport’s cargo repertoire.

Together for the future

The backing of strong public-private partnerships guarantees the continued development of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. Since January 1998, the airport operator Fraport AG has been majority shareholder in the airport operating company Frankfurt-Hahn GmbH. Today, Fraport AG has a 65-percent interest in Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse each hold a 17.5-percent share.

While Fraport provides security to customers at Frankfurt-Hahn, the airport offers Fraport growth potential in a new market. The transport infrastructure in and around Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is currently being optimised at high speed with the support of the state of Rhineland-Palatine. The four-lane roadway between the airport and the nearest autobahn will be finished in 2008. The motivation and flexibility of the employees at the airport is very good and the population around the airport knows that it can be counted on to generate jobs and likewise supports its development.

Over the next 20 years, world air cargo is expected to grow at a rate of 6.2% per year. Airfreight is likely to grow more rapidly than mail, averaging annual growth of 6.3% per year through to 2023. Due to the further extension of Frankfurt-Main Airport, Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is also generating strong economic growth and providing opportunities for new markets.

Jörg Schumacher

When he joined Fraport AG as majority shareholder in January 1998, Jörg Schumacher took over the post of Managing Director of Flughafen Frankfurt-Hahn GmbH. He has been Management Spokesman since April 2005. His sphere of duties includes primarily the areas of acquisition, marketing and public relations, real estate and airport expansion.

Born in Saarbrücken in 1959, Schumacher studied law at the University of Mainz. He has had ties to the aviation industry for the past twenty years. His airport career began in the mid-1980s at Flughafen Frankfurt am Main AG – today Fraport AG. There he gradually became acquainted with various areas of airport work, especially the cargo business. From 1991 to 1996, he managed ground-handling services and acted as expert for the EU Commission in the ground handling-related complaints procedure. From April 1995 to December 1997, he worked at Frankfurt Airport as Cargo Handling Manager, where he was responsible for reorganising cargo, as well as for planning Cargo City South and relocating the Air Freight Department, amongst other things.

In his spare time, Jörg Schumacher is an avid cyclist. He is married and has one daughter.

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