hidden europe 30

On a wing and a prayer

by Nicky Gardner

Summary

Are we too tolerant of the aggressive new generation of low-cost airlines that are too footloose to show any real commitment to a particular airport? We look at some examples of community support for local airports that has not always reaped handsome dividends.

In 2005, a small community in southern Germany earmarked half a million euros to kickstart a scheme to convert a former American air base into a commercial airfield. Impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the community, the government of Bavaria contributed over seven million euros to the airport development fund.

And thus was born the airport at Memmingen in the Allgäu region west of Munich. Scheduled flights started in 2007, with the German carrier TUIfly promising that public sector investment would be handsomely rewarded as the airline developed a hub at Memmingen.

TUIfly is Germany’s third largest airline and a force to be reckoned with in the German aviation market. But the airline’s commitment to Memmingen has wavered with the seasons. At the moment TUIfly has no flights at all from the Bavarian airport, but that will change in early May when the airline starts a summer flight programme with eight flights a week to Mediterranean destinations. Hardly a massive commitment to the new airport. With Air Berlin announcing in late February that it would scrap two key routes from Memmingen in March 2010, managers at the airport are surely pondering if they can make any profit this year at all.

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