The Etihad-Air Berlin partnership has yet to realise its full potential, claims Munich Airport’s president and CEO.
Dr. Michael Kerkloh flew into the UAE this week and met with Etihad managers to see how it can generate more business, particularly transfer traffic through the Bavarian airport.
“There’s a lot of O&D (origin and destination) passengers on the route but we think the full potential hasn’t been realised,” he said.
Since Etihad bought a 29.21 per cent stake in Air Berlin, and the latter started flights to Abu Dhabi in January last year, both airlines have been working hard to align their businesses, particularly with maintenance and frequent flyer programs alongside codeshare operations.
Last month Etihad Airways’ CEO James Hogan said it carried 47 per cent more guests (530,351) to and from Germany compared to 2011 – attributing the figures to better load factors to and from Frankfurt and Munich, the launch of its daily Dusseldorf service, and strong feeder traffic from Air Berlin.
But Kerkloh would like to see the partnership deepen and more passengers funnelled through other German airports, such as Berlin and Dusseldorf. Munich Airport will handle around 39 million passengers this year, around two per cent more than 2012.
“Air Berlin was exposed, it was hit hard by taxes – the aim is to stabilise and sustain the airline,” added Kerkloh. “We need to promote to German people the benefits of the Gulf’s tourism. Historically Germans have flown to The Canaries, and we need to say it’s not much further to go to Abu Dhabi now.”
Munich is hampered by slot availability with curfews in place and planes operating up to 10 hours a day on its two runways. Plans for a third runway have been announced but airport authorities must overcome environmental and residential concerns.