Lufthansa chairman Jürgen Weber has demanded a new runway at Frankfurt Airport, saying that the airport's capacity is already reaching its limits.

Weber says that the airport is not capable of handling more than 70 or 80 take-offs an hour, and has nearly reached this limit. In a German press interview, Weber spells out a straight political decision between keeping Frankfurt as a major international hub or allowing it to be overtaken and decline into a "second-order airport".

He does not believe that the further development of Munich or other airports is a realistic or attractive economic alternative.

The Frankfurt Airport Company (FAG) says that there are no current plans for expansion, and that the airport has capacity reserves that should last eight to ten years.

"We will hit our capacity limit in about 2005," says FAG, insisting that any expansion will then be based on consensus with the local authorities and population. The airport company concedes, however, that it is already regularly hitting hourly capacity limits on aircraft movements during peak periods.

FAG is currently in negotiations over the purchase of the former US military airbase at Hahn, some 100km west of Frankfurt airport, from the regional government of Rheinland Pfalz.

The talks are partially motivated by fears that Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which is already drawing German freight business, is also interested in investing in Hahn, but also by the possibility that Hahn could offer freight capacity to relieve the burden at Frankfurt itself.

Source: Flight International