The German airport industry: empirical findings from the pre-study
Since its early days, the airport industry has undergone periods of fundamental change. The world’s oldest airport in Maryland/USA, established in 1909, was just a takeoff and landing site with grassy fields. The first fundamental change took place in the 1920’s when the first terminals for permanent commercial aviation emerged. But only after World War II, airport design became more sophisticated, allowing expansion of the facilities. With the rise of jets in the 1960’s, the next radical change occurred: longer distances could be covered, leading to a strong increase in passengers and freight. Airport construction boomed and airport companies were challenged in terms of airport engineering design as well as continuous improvements of their core business – the handling of take-offs and landings. The prospering global economy and the development of the air transport technology have ever since then led to a continuous traffic growth – turning airports from an elitist area into a place for the broad public. The emergence of the low-cost-carriers – originally introduced by Southwest Airlines in 1971 – has intensified this development since the beginning of the 1990’s. Travelling by air became affordable and airports had to deal with this radical innovation in the field of aviation as they are intermediaries between airlines and passengers. At the same time, airports have faced another period of fundamental change: in the course of air traffic deregulation and increasing competition, airports have become increasingly aware of the importance of considering passengers, local residents and businesses as direct customers besides airlines as well.