Lufthansa Cargo eyes potential growth in Munich

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Lufthansa Cargo will maintain Frankfurt as its home base, despite an on-going restriction on night flights, but the German freight carrier has scaled back its plans for its new logistics centre at the hub and is eyeing potential growth in Munich instead.

In September 2012, the airline decided to replace its existing cargo facility in Frankfurt with a new terminal which is due become operational in 2018. Ground will be broken by the end of 2013.

But the new site - which will have a freight capacity of 1.6 million tonnes per year and cost "significantly more than €500 million [$649 million]" - will be around 20% smaller than originally planned, says Karl Ulrich Garnadt, Lufthansa Cargo's chief executive.

He says Lufthansa Cargo's base needs to remain in Frankfurt despite last year's federal court ruling banning night flights between 23:00 and 5:00am, because approximately half of its cargo volume is transported as belly freight in the parent airline's locally based passenger fleet.

While the night-flight ban is a difficult restriction, Garnadt says that the court ruling created legal clarity and planning certainty, and that the current situation "can be managed". Lufthansa Cargo will not try to reverse the ruling, he added, speaking at a 21 March results presentation in Frankfurt.

However, while Germany's largest hub is the "best location in Europe" for an cargo airline due to its geographic position and surrounding infrastructure, he also says that "we cannot pursue all our expansion dreams in Frankfurt".

Munich would an "option" for growth, he says, but adds that any expansion at Lufthansa's second hub would depend on the availability of belly freight capacity.