How are facilities at airports used
A distinction is made between the following airport categories: hub airports (hubs), secondary airports and regional airports. A list of the world's largest airports is shown in Table 1. The world's largest airport, based on the number of passengers in 2016, is located in Atlanta in the US state of Georgia. The airport is the home airport (hub) of Delta Airlines and is mainly used as a stopover for flights within the USA, which results in the high number of passengers. The largest airport in Europe is London Heathrow, which ranks seventh internationally. Germany's largest airport in Frankfurt am Main is in 14th place. An overview of the 12 German airports of "special federal interest" can be found in the German Air Transport Concept from 2017 [BMVI17aj, p.21].
The services of the airports are assigned either to the airside (aviation) or the landside (non-aviation) area. The aviation area includes all services that are directly necessary for the adequate handling of passenger and / or freight traffic. These are essentially flight operations on the flight operations areas and in the airport terminals, ground handling and the central (operational) infrastructure. The customers of the aviation sector are primarily the airlines, which ask for time slots and services for take-off and landing [Knip12]. For this they have to pay fees to the airport company. These airport charges represent a major source of income for the airports.
The non-aviation area includes other services such as renting / leasing retail and restaurant space, parking spaces for cars and advertising. Sales in the non-aviation sector depend on the development of the aviation sector. The more passengers use the airport, the more the complementary facilities such as restaurants at the airport are used. With the beginning of the deregulation of air traffic in 1971, the financial importance of the non-aviation sector for airports has increased significantly. The turnover share of the non-aviation sector at many large airports is 50 percent. That is why airports are increasingly investing in this area of terminal infrastructure.
Some particularly important airports - especially the large international airports - represent a natural monopoly and are therefore subject to regulation when setting their airport charges [Neus08]. On the other hand, small regional airports are often economically unprofitable, such as Kassel-Calden Airport [FrRu16]. Since it is argued that regional airports also generate economic benefits, the losses are offset by the airport's shareholders, the public sector, by means of subsidies. In the context of national and international airport competition, however, this raises the issue of state aid law. This states that companies are not allowed to receive state subsidies, as these would be anti-competitive. From the year 2024, under EU law, subsidies for the running costs of the airports will no longer be permitted [EuKom14d].
Closely related to the question of airport charges is the question of managing scarce capacities at important international airports. An airport slot is the right of an airline to use the runway of an airport at a certain point in time. It is issued by the airport coordinator and is valid for a specific flight schedule period. Even if slots become scarce at an airport, they are usually not auctioned or otherwise tradable on the market, but are still made available to previous users free of charge (so-called "grandfather rights"). This stabilizes long-term cooperation between airlines and their home airports, but it also cements the market power of the major national airlines.
In the course of air traffic growth, the need for infrastructure has increased. At the same time, there has been increased pressure from airlines on airports to offer low-cost airport operations. In order to be able to cover the growing need for infrastructure and thus also for investment, private capital is increasingly required. For this reason, airports are being (partially) privatized to varying degrees and using different privatization models. In addition to the public sector, for example, specialized infrastructure companies (Hochtief at Hamburg Airport) or even airlines (Deutsche Lufthansa at Frankfurt / Main Airport) participate as shareholders and make private capital available for infrastructure measures. In 2017, 82.5 percent of Hahn Airport (Rhineland-Palatinate) was sold to a Chinese investor [HHN19]. In addition, airport companies participate in other airports. For example, in 2014 Fraport AG, the operator of Frankfurt Airport, bought 14 airports in Greece [TaSp15].
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