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Going global


By diversifying its portfolio to offer management, consulting and training services worldwide, Munich Airport has expanded its footprint far beyond Bavaria, writes Ivonne Kuger.

The past year will surely go down as the worst in the history of commercial aviation, and with global passenger traffic struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and revenues down like never before, the financial challenges currently facing the world’s airports are huge.

Quite rightly, the priorities for most airports at the moment are firmly focused on reducing their overheads and making sure that they are COVID-19 compliant to ensure the health and wellbeing of returning passengers and staff.

However, with no clear end in site to the ongoing travel restrictions and the pandemic possibly having a long-lasting effect on the way people work, travel and do business, it could be argued that the case for airports to diversify their business activities to boost the bottom line has never been more important.

Fortunately, Munich Airport, through wholly owned subsidiary Munich Airport International (MAI), has been able to do this over the last year through the successful completion of a number of international projects that have further expanded its global footprint.

Why venture outside its own 5-star campus?

Apart from the obvious benefit of tapping into additional revenue streams independent from traffic development at Munich, the international business brings many other advantages for the Munich Airport Group as well as for MAI’s clients across the globe.

Coming from a 5-star airport with an integrated business model, MAI understands the current and future challenges faced by the industry and knows how to turn them into opportunities.

Indeed, by sharing best practice solutions and expertise across all areas of airport operations, Munich Airport actively supports the growth of the global aviation market, contributes to the improvement of global air traffic standards and works towards a greener industry by introducing higher environmental standards at other airports.

On the other hand, new experiences and knowledge is gained with each project abroad, which in turn supports MAI in expanding even further. All in all, it is a win-win situation for everyone – stakeholders, airports, employees and locals.

Trusted partner for smart money and ambitious airports

As an integral part of a very dynamic ecosystem, airports have to be able to embrace change and transform their business models in light of new trends and regulations, next generation aircraft, advanced technologies, demographic change and fluctuating demand.

“Airports must find new answers to a variety of challenges such as the digitalisation of airport processes, commercialising airport assets and becoming more environmentally friendly,” explains MAI’s managing director, Dr Ralf Gaffal.

“At Munich Airport, for example, the declared aim is to become CO2 neutral by 2030 at the latest and moreover reach net zero by 2050.”

Over the past 30 years, MAI has evolved from being a leading operational readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) service provider to a global airport operator with a broad experience in working with investors on public-private partnership projects.

Today, it provides best practice solutions for the entire airport lifecycle and has a proven track record of more than 110 successfully delivered projects across more than 40 countries. This also includes long-term management commitments and the corresponding transition services.

Transition services: the art of handing over the reins

MAI’s transition services ensure a smooth changing of the guard between two airport operators, be they public entities or private investors.

A well-structured transition programme starts with operations, maintenance and commercial due diligence, and lays out a detailed plan for handover of the operations and management responsibility.

MAI has successfully performed various transitions over the past years, the latest being at Toncontín International Airport in Honduras; Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport in USA; and several airports in India.

Furthermore, MAI is currently involved in the change of management at Sofia Airport in Bulgaria and took over responsibility for operating it together with concessionaire, SOF Connect, on April 19, 2021.

Starting later this year, MAI will also manage the transition for the Cargo Terminal at El Salvador International Airport in El Salvador in Central America.

When taking a deeper look into the aforesaid transitions, it becomes clear that it really is a 360-degree approach, covering all five key aspects of an airport lifecycle.

1. Airport business excellence – shaping state-of-the-art concepts

Before jumping into action, a clear vision and operational model has to not only be developed, but also be internalised by staff, business partners and airport stakeholders. It is important that everyone is
on the same page and understands where the airport is heading.

2. Planning and development – making airports fit for the future

With the defined vision in mind, an analysis of the existing environment and facilities helps to identify the areas in need of optimisation and adjustment. Quick wins for improved passenger experience and increased efficiency in operations are just as important as long-term enhancement measures.

When looking at present transitions, tasks such as re-engineering of the present installations, updating the information communication technology (ICT) masterplan and the development of new facilities
are a top priority.

3. ORAT – getting ready for take-off

The improvement of existing facilities, and the development of new ones, always come with the challenge of a smooth upkeeping and transfer of operations. Work in progress should never negatively affect the airport experience; be it for passengers, employees or stakeholders.

Processes have to be adopted, infrastructure has to be tested and staff have to be familiarised with the new working environment as early as possible. With close to 40 successfully completed ORATs, MAI is aware of all the pitfalls and will work together closely with all involved stakeholders to ensure a smooth transfer once the new facilities are finished.

4. Airport operations – ensuring efficient and sustainable operations

As a global airport operator, MAI focuses on implementing best practice solutions in order to increase the efficiency and productivity of all operations.

This includes strengthening digitalisation with innovative IT solutions, for example, as well as adopting the latest safety and security standards, and of course implementing the highest possible hygiene standards to make customers feel comfortable when travelling – despite the ongoing pandemic.

In addition, transparent communication at all levels as well as enhancement programmes for employees are crucial for a favourable work environment.

5. Commercial growth – optimising aviation and non-aviation revenues

An airport should always try to reflect its roots and offer a suitable choice of retail and F&B opportunities the highlight the local culture. Also, the flight network has to be selected wisely, to contribute to the overall success.

At Cairo Airport, for example, MAI developed tailored strategies to increase commercial revenue and the customer satisfaction in the new Terminal 2 by analysing the passenger’s needs and joining forces with local business partners.

“A change of leadership holds many challenges,” says Lorenzo Di Loreto, MAI’s vice president for business development and service delivery. “It involves multiple interfaces from state authorities all the way to the airport’s employees.

“Only with the necessary sensitiveness, professionalism and structured approach can a smooth transition be guaranteed. We are proud to be part of various airports’ next chapters and look forward to working together closely with our investment partners worldwide, different states, and overall society.”

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