Frankfurt Airport Now Has Too Many Runways

A year ago, Frankfurt Airport would’ve been using all four of its runways. However, now having four runways is a problem. The airport has too many runways for the current level of flights it is serving. As a result, it will be closing one from December 14th.

Earlier this week, Berlin Brandenburg Airport was forced to admit that it was planning to close its brand new runway just three weeks after it opened. Germany has seen passenger numbers plummet since the crisis began. This is a situation that has only been made worse by the second COVID-19 wave spreading throughout Europe.

Closing the north-west runway

Frankfurt Airport’s north-west runway is the newest addition to the airport’s runway family. Construction began in early 2009, with the runway opening to aircraft two years later. Its construction was controversial in Frankfurt, sparking protest. The runway is situated to the north of the main airport and is accessed over two taxiway bridges crossing a railway line and several roads.

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Now, the runway is set to close as Frankfurt Airport once again copes with reduced demand. From December 14th, the runway will close to air traffic. No firm date has been given for when it will reopen. If any of the airport’s runways is closed, it makes sense for this to close, given its distance from the main airport area. The airport believes that it will be able to function without the runway, even if it snows.

The runway is only used for arrivals but is far away from the terminals. Photo: Fraport

A parking spot for planes?

This won’t be the first time this year that the northwest runway has been closed. Indeed, from April until June, the landing runway was out of service. During this time, Lufthansa used it to park some of its larger grounded aircraft, such as Airbus A340s and A330s.

When the runway reopened in the summer, Lufthansa had to move its aircraft. However, it could become a plane park once more, as the airport’s operator, Fraport, said that its reopening would be contingent on the future development of traffic, tied with space requirements for temporarily decommissioned aircraft.

Why close a runway?

Frankfurt will be closing its runway as it is not needed for the time being. This brings two advantages. As mentioned above, it becomes available to store aircraft that aren’t flying. However, the measure will also help cut costs.

Earlier in the year, Lufthansa stored a range of widebody jets on the runway. Photo: Oliver Roesler via Lufthansa

Firstly, fewer air traffic controllers will likely be required, as fewer runways are in use. However, it is also possible that satellite facilities, such as the northern fire station that is just for that runway, will not need to be staffed. The airport will also not need to check the runway for foreign debris and the like so often.

Do you think Frankfurt Airport is making the right decision to close its north-west runway? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!