Of Alliances and Airports

As with any industry the business of air travel has had some difficulties in recent times.  But two different players in the industry are hoping partnerships will keep the money rolling in, despite unwanted turbulence.   KJZZ’s Tony Ganzer reports from Frankfurt, Germany.


TG:  There’s no disputing Phoenix Sky Harbor airport is big.  Airports Council International ranks Phoenix the 17th busiest airport in the world, in terms of passenger numbers.  It has multiple terminals, some shops and restaurants.  But how does it compare with an airport a little higher on the list?

High speed trains flow in and out of Frankfurt Airport constantly, taking passengers around Germany and other spots in the European Union.  Frankfurt is the 8th busiest airport in the world.



High-speed trains like this could be more butter for Frankfurt’s Air-Rail strategy.

Robert Payne: “To remain a key player in the premier league of airports you have to invest, and that’s what we’re doing.”

TG:  Robert Payne is a spokesman for Frankfurt Airport, which stands as Europe’s third largest.

Payne: “I think airports have taken on a bad image in the past few years particularly because since 9/11 the intensified security.  But here at Frankfurt Airport it’s very much a city, there’s an atmosphere here that is very conducive for many kinds of activities.”

TG:  Frankfurt is all about development.  Not only does the airport have a long distance train station, it also has a regional train station and the busy A3 autobahn right next door.  Space next to ticket counters is occupied by retail shops, a grocery store, hotels, and office space.

Payne:  “We’re broadening our revenue base, we’re already generating a substantial amount of monies and profit from non aviation activities.”


A map of the airport and surrounding area shows visitors a bird’s eye view of expansion.

TG:  Frankfurt Airport is investing 7 billion Euros, or about 10 point 5 billion dollars, into a new runway and terminal.  It’s renovated space to support the Airbus super jumbo jet, and it’s building another two hotels and office space above the train station, all in an effort to diversify its portfolio—a many eggs in many baskets approach.  Payne says a lot of airlines use European rail as a feeder system, allowing carriers to cut short-haul flights that don’t make much money.  Another money saving option for airlines rests in alliances.

Christian Klick:  “11 years ago nobody really knew that this will be a role model for working together in the airline industry.”

TG:  Christian Klick is the Vice President for the largest airline alliance in the world, the Star Alliance—of which Tempe-based US Airways is a member.  The alliance is also a tenant of Frankfurt Airport’s office space.

Klick:  “It began with a group of 5 airlines, from North America, from Europe, and from Asia.  The leaders of those airlines came together and said, “None of our airlines will ever be able to give our travelers a global offer, and that’s why they need to work together on an international scale.”

TG:  Klick says alliances like his and the competitors of Sky Team and One World, give airlines more options to cut costs.  Star Alliance penned a deal to supply all the plastic drink cups to its member airlines, saving money by buying in bulk.  Klick also points to the savings given by e-ticketing through the internet.


A map in the Star Alliance lobby shows the alliance’s 21 carriers.

Klick:  “They can be very small things, but we are having more than 400 million passengers on our airlines. But we are only at the beginning here. We do believe there are many more areas where we can work together.”

TG:  Klick says travelers want to travel on a global scale, making it all the more important for airlines to find ways to cheaply expand their reach.  The global perspective is key for Robert Payne at the Frankfurt airport as well.

Payne: “The airlines need to think more long-term.  Wherever you’re located whether you’re in Phoenix or Timbuktu or Frankfurt you have to think we’re in a very interconnected, intertwined global marketplace.”


A posh information center at Frankfurt Airport shows visitors what the airport city has to offer.

TG:  And for Frankfurt Airport, that strategy translates into more of everything.  How that translates for large U.S. airports like Sky Harbor, remains to be seen.

For KJZZ, I’m Tony Ganzer in Frankfurt.

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