Is Münster The Unluckiest Airport In Germany?

Münster Osnabrück is a super little airport in a great location, which has been established since 1966. In theory, it should be doing very well for itself, having a great catchment and decent facilities. However, over the last few years, it has been perhaps the unluckiest airport in Germany, maybe even the world. Here’s Münster Osnabrück’s story.

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Is Munster Osnabruck Airport just unlucky? Photo: Munster Osnabruck Airport

An airport with potential

In theory, Münster Osnabrück International Airport (FMO) should be a great little airport. Its location close to the Dutch border, close to Lower Saxony and near the heavily populated North Rhine-Westphalia region, giving it a great catchment area. However, for one reason or another, it’s not been the luckiest airport in the world.

During the 90s, the airport was doing quite well. A new terminal was constructed in 1995, and then another, Terminal 2, in 2002. The airport wanted to continue this upward momentum and put plans in place to extend the runway to 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) to attract long haul operators. However, environmentalists said this would damage a local nature area, putting a stop to the plans.

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The airport expanded greatly in the 90s. Photo: Rüdiger Wölk via Wikimedia

Since then, it’s been one headache after another for Münster Airport. Abandoned by Flybe and Ryanair, the airport became heavily reliant on a single carrier. Manager of Aviation Marketing for the airport, Detlef Döbberthin, told us the rest of the story during the recent AviaDev Europe conference in Valencia.

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Detlef Döbberthin recounts the troubles

“At the beginning, we were a very strong Air Berlin Airport, Münster Osnabrück, in a very attractive catchment area. Air Berlin was especially dedicated to regional operations … they were at Münster Airport for 25 years, with seven aircraft based there.”

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Air Berlin had been at FMO for over 25 years. Photo: Archangel12 via Wikimedia

Of course, we all know how it ended for Air Berlin. However, Münster was being hampered by Air Berlin’s financial situation long before it finally wound up operations. Döbberthin said,

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“When they got into financial trouble, they reduced their presence at smaller regional airports, preferring to focus on larger airports. So we weren’t affected directly by the bankruptcy, but had lost service bit by bit over the previous years. It was a challenge for us to find someone to replace these services.”

On the 28th September 2016, Air Berlin announced something they affectionately called ‘The new airberlin’, a project to restructure the airline and refocus its operation in a bid to return to profitability. Part of this was reducing its destinations from 140 to just 70. It was likely around this time when Air Berlin pulled out of Münster entirely.

A replacement for Air Berlin

“We found a replacement in the German carrier Germania. Germania had been strong at Münster already for 30 years, but as a charter carrier. They transformed themselves after Air Berlin reduced in the region, into a hybrid scheduled carrier. We developed a market with Germania after Air Berlin left; it was a good situation for us over the last few years.”

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Munster welcoming Germania to the airport. Photo: Munster Osnabruck Airport

Germania looked like a great fit for Münster. It was a German airline and was very familiar with the airport having operated scheduled services on behalf of operators like TUI for many years. Its willingness to begin scheduled services to fill the gap left by Air Berlin was a good signal for Münster. However, the drama was not over yet. Döbberthin said,

“Very unexpectedly, also Germania failed.”

Germania collapsed overnight between February 4th and 5th this year. Its spectacular and unanticipated failure left the industry open-mouthed, but none more so than Münster. Döbberthin commented,

“It was very unexpected, especially when we had high booking numbers or the summer. We were sure Germania was safe.”

A replacement for the replacement

Once again, Münster was seeking an airline to replace the sudden loss of capacity from Germania’s abrupt exit. Döbberthin explained,

“Our next challenge was to find a replacement of Germania as well. We succeeded within just four weeks.”

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Corendon mobilized within weeks. Photo: Munster Osnabruck Airport

Four weeks is an impressive turnaround from the collapse of one airline to the start of another. The airline that stepped up to the challenge was a Turkish carrier called Corendon Airlines. Although the arrangement with this new airline wasn’t perfect, it was a good capacity replacement for Germania.

“They didn’t take over the entire capacity, and they didn’t operate to any of the same destinations  as Germania had before. From the 20% market share Germania had in 2018, we will just suffer from a loss of 5- 6% in terms of passenger numbers for 2019.”

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Corendon has replaced almost all the lost capacity. Photo: Munster Osnabruck Airport

Although Corendon couldn’t replace the bookings taken by Germania for the summer, as these were not its focus destinations, to replace almost all of the lost capacity in under a month was impressive stuff from Münster Airport. Döbberthin explained how they did it, saying,

“Corendon was flying Münster to Antalya a couple of years ago. They were interested in resuming flights from Münster Airport but, due to the strong presence of Germania, they were holding back from restarting anything. Despite this, we maintained a relationship. After the collapse of Germania, we had the chance to pick these discussions back up. They were in a position to step in quickly and implement the plans we had discussed before.”

So, after two airline collapses, it’s a happy ending for Münster after all. That is, as long as Corendon keeps flying!

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Farhan Nazar

At least they’re not BER……..