Sorry, in light of all this misinformation that has accumulated here, I can't help posting some annotations to put some things straight (My apologies to those who will be bored to death after my brief digression on German history
... grab the walking tour brochure from the Sofitel, you will read that Frankfurt was the commerce capital of the Germanic area since it was granted free trade rights by the emperor in and around 1100AD.
I would rather not rely on a flyer for accurate information. With a tad of research you would find that a) one millennium earlier, Cologne was already the most important trade city within the Roman Empire north of the Alps, b) by the time when Frankfurt received trade rights, Cologne was already one of the big players in the Hanseatic League, and its citizens embarked on building the world's largest, most splendid Gothic cathedral to praise the Lord for their fortune ...
Frankfurt was and is an important trade city, but it is not an economic center like London. It is the location of the largest German stock exchange, and it is the most important banking city, but unlike London it is not the German insurance capital (that title would go to Cologne and Munich), and it is not an important tradeport (that would be Hamburg), Also, banking alone does not necessarily warrant a mega-hub operation. Case in point: The second-largest banking capital in the US is (would you have guessed it?) Charlotte, NC
, and yet, the hub operation there is rather modest.
... Another reason that Bonn was chosen over Frankfurt in 1949 is that the back-then chief of the CDU and first chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer was in favour of it as it was close to his own home town.
This is merely an anecdote, nothing more. For one, Bonn was never "the capital" of West Germany. Berlin retained that title throughout the Cold War. Bonn was merely the (temporary) seat of the West German government, and it was chosen primarily in order to underline the temporary character. Now, if Frankfurt had been chosen, it would have opened another can of worms, because Frankfurt could have easily made claims to become a true capital. After all, it was for centuries the city, where the East Frankish kings were elected, and - with the first National Assembly held in 1848 - it became the birthplace of democracy in Germany. However, as I said before, Adenauer' s goal was to retain Berlin's status as the only legitimate capital of Germany. Starlionblue
is 100% correct in his posting #19
Cologne is too far from the center to become a big airport.
Sorry, but a quick glance at a map of Germany will tell you just how silly that statement is. And re-read #7: before WWII, Cologne was the "Hub of the West" in Lufthansa's network. Nuff said.
To sum it up: The simple answer, why Lufthansa chose FRA
as their first hub lies in my posting # 7: It was the first available suitable airport after WWII, and it was certainly not a bad choice, but it was somewhat arbitrary. As Mozart
pointed out correctly, much of the infrastructure, including the airport railroad station, was built decades later.
A few more comments: over 30% of all O&D traffic at Frankfurt airport is generated by Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. This means that most of these travelers have to pass through Cologne, the biggest city in that state, located near the southern border. Now, if those travelers were offered comparable flight options (in terms of quality and price) closer to their origin or destination, what do you think their likely reaction would be? I think the answer is obvious and therefore it appears questionable whether Lufthansa will be able to defend its dominant position in the long run by solely relying on FRA
for the coverage of central Germany. Economically, Germany is indeed multicentric, and Lufthansa would probably be better off in the long run, if that fact was somehow better reflected in their route structure (notwithstanding the advantages of a hub operation). In defense of Lufthansa, I'd have to say that they did try in the past to tackle this issue and probably will continue to do so.
Hamburg shot itself in the foot, when they ignored Lufthansa's request to build a new airport outside the city with an infrastructure that could support a hub operation.
In Cologne, Lufthansa made indeed an attempt to rebuild the "Hub of the West" as Mozart
posted above, However, the big airline crisis of the 90s - triggered by the bombing of PA 103 and the gulf war - brought these efforts to a screeching halt. Then MUC
came up, and it was a window of opportunity that Lufthansa could not possibly allow to pass.
Meanwhile, the coverage of North Rhine-Westphalia still leaves much to be desired. Lufthansa has a minority stake in Germanwings, a low-cost airline operating mostly out of CGN
to over 30 destinations with A319 an A320 aircraft. They have enormous success, and LH
has an option to acquire a controlling interest in that airline. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that they may get integrated in the LH
network one day. Also, LH
Cargo has established a second hub in CGN
, with numerous nonstops to the US and Asia. Therefore, it would not surprise me, if LH
officially opened a third hub there at some stage. It is without question the only other airport in Germany that has the infrastructure to support a hub operation. including a railroad station right under the main terminal, which opens in just a few months, with hourly bullet train service to the industrial Ruhr area and - of course - to FRA
(in less then an hour). If FRA
does not get approval for its ambitious expansion plan, we might see that development fairly soon.
Now to Berlin: I certainly share Steven's love for the city, it really is amazing. However, as far as the aviation infrastruture is concerned, it's a mess. Plain and simple. Anybody, who believes that they will build a new hub-capable airport in the foreseeable future, probably believes in Santa Claus too. The idea of consolidating airport operations is certainly understandable, however, I have yet to see a solid plan to finance this ambitious project. The local politicians were unable to attract private capital, the city is bankrupt, and the federal government does not have billions to spare either. So, BBI is not going to happen anytime soon, and in the meantime, LH
does not have to worry about missing the boat in Berlin.
"Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes forever skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return." -Leonardo Da Vinci