Munich Airport has started the ball rolling on bringing another runway - its third - into service. If its planning application is successful, the third runway will allow an extra 120 scheduled take-offs and landings per hour and could be operational from 2011.
The expansion plans come as no surprise. Munich is one of the fastest growing airports in Europe, last year showing a 6.7% hike in passenger numbers. Much of this growth can be attributed to Lufthansa's sprawling empire as it develops Munich as a secondary hub, and expands its catchment into Austria and northern Italy. In 2005 Lufthansa grew at Munich in terms of available seat kilometres by 13.9% compared to the previous year. This figure accounted for more than half the total growth at the airport. Other carriers showing good growth at the airport are low-cost carriers Air Berlin and germanwings.
Munich is proceeding with the favoured option of a new parallel runway separated by 1,180m (3,870ft), and with a 2,100m offset threshold, in relation to the northern runway.
This proposal, known as "Option 5b", is one of more than two dozen originally considered for the airport, although only six configurations were able to provide the necessary capacity of 120 flight movements per hour.
The third runway is the latest phase of expansion at Munich Airport, which was opened in 1992 after years of delays. In June 2003, Munich opened its second terminal, which is dedicated to Star Alliance carriers and Lufthansa's handling partners.