Frankfurt Airport’s third terminal construction is under way and a LCC provision has been built in

3 May, 2019

Once known as a classic example of a single-terminal gateway/hub airport, Fraport commenced construction of Frankfurt airport's Terminal 3 on 29-Apr-2019. It includes a dedicated low-cost pier, one of the first of its kind at a European hub airport of Frankfurt's gravitas. Frankfurt is the fourth busiest of the 'FLAP' airports (the others being London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle), with 69.5 million passengers in 2018.

The 420m long (landside) and much-extended T1 alone can handle 50 million ppa and is mainly used by Lufthansa, associated airlines and Star Alliance members. The considerably smaller T2, which has a capacity of 15 million ppa, opened in 1994 and is divided into two concourses. T2 is primarily used by oneworld and SkyTeam alliance members. Both terminals are fully capable of handling wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A380.

That configuration suggests that the new terminal may be geared towards unaligned carriers (which according to CAPA - Centre for Aviation analysis of OAG data are spread between the two current terminals) and many of those tend to be LCCs.

Frankfurt is not an airport one immediately thinks of as an LCC airport and to a degree the need to provide for them has been thrust on the management by the fact they now account for 6.3% of capacity (w/c 29-Apr-2019), led by Ryanair with 3.6%.

CHART - Low Cost Carriers currently account for just over 6% of seat capacity at Frankfurt AirportSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 29-Apr-2019)

Yes, 6.3% is not much. Of the FLAP airports Amsterdam Schiphol, which does make specific provision for LCCs, has the highest percentage at 23.9% but quite a lot of this is intended to transfer to Lelystad airport when that facility finally opens to scheduled traffic. The second highest LCC ratio is at Paris CDG at 14.7%, an airport which does make some provision for them although Ryanair supports a different airport altogether, Paris-Beauvais. London Heathrow, at just 2.5% LCC capacity, makes hardly any specific provision for LCCs.

The difference at Frankfurt is that Ryanair has been a driving force as it seeks to break what it perceives as a monopoly amongst Lufthansa Group carriers. As with Paris, Ryanair's main support has hitherto been for another airport, in this case Hahn, which is located 100 km to the west of Frankfurt. But from 1Q2018 it began to reduce the number of based aircraft there and to add them at Frankfurt along with unsustainable Hahn routes, part of its strategy to grow at primary airports in Europe. It already offers more weekly departures at Frankfurt than Hahn even though the number of destinations is less, by way of greater frequency.

Fraport Ausbau Süd GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fraport AG, is responsible for managing, supervising and monitoring the construction project. The project represents investment of between EUR3.5 billion and EUR4 billion out of a total of USD10 billion slated for through to 2022 according to the CAPA - Centre for Aviation Airport Construction Database. Overall, T3 expansion is scheduled for completion by 2023.

Overall project details include:

  • Construction of pier G, a 59,000sqm dedicated LCC terminal with capacity of five million passengers per annum. The pier is scheduled for completion in 2021. In 2017, Frankfurt Airport indicated that the second-phase construction of the eastern-most pier (concourse 3G) could be moved forward so that low-cost carriers can use this pier from 2021;
  • Construction of piers J and H, to be completed by 2023 and increasing airport capacity by 21 million ppa. Combined, the piers will offer 24 adjacent aircraft parking positions, including four A380 stands, with a surface area of 103,000sqm;
  • Option for construction of pier K "at a later date", further increasing T3 capacity to 25 million per annum.

Germany's Hesse Minister for Finance, Thomas Schäfer stated construction of T3 is an "important step" for strengthening the airport's competitiveness as well as the state of Hesse as a centre of economic activity. The project has the potential to create "many new jobs" while increasing the importance of Frankfurt Airport "as Germany's largest place of employment", he continued. "Even though the airport is the powerhouse of Hesse's economy...the state government will continue to insist that the aviation industry uphold its strong commitment to reducing noise and environmental burdens", Mr Schäfer concluded.

That final remark is telling, and indicative of how Germany's and Europe's main airports are likely to be increasingly constrained by environmental demands. Munich Airport's third runway has already been delayed until at least 2023.