BYLINE: By Roger Turney
After years of battling the federal government in Berlin, local authorities and environmental groups for more capacity, it appears Frankfurt Airport will get a new runway. But, at what cost?
Airport operator Fraport appears to have done a deal with the devil. The German gateway will get a new fourth runway on the condition it imposes a stringent ban on nighttime operations, the government stipulates. Freighter operations will suffer the most from a nighttime flight ban but Fraport is attempting to mitigate the impact.
It's a condition upon which the airport appears ready to accept. "We expect to get final approval for the new runway later next year, which could be operational as early as 2009," says Robert Payne, a Fraport spokesman.
Why so desperate for extra capacity when the airport appears relatively well equipped? Currently, Frankfurt operates two parallel runways and a third crosswind runway, which can only be used for take-offs. The parallel runways are too close to one another to allow simultaneous operations. With the existing system, Fraport can only use about 50 percent of the airport's operational capacity.
Deutsche Post World Net has moved most of its domestic mail flights out of Frankfurt and switched to trucking operations.
That only leaves Lufthansa Cargo chomping at the bit over the imposition of a nighttime ban at Frankfurt, which accounts for a third of its current freighter service.