MUNICH, Germany -- If international travelers could design an
airport, they probably would want an immigration station just a few
feet from the door of the plane. They probably would position the
baggage claim area not too much farther away. In the Ultimate Dream
Airport, customs inspectors would be stationed adjacent to the
baggage claim area. Most of all, airport personnel would behave as
if they were actually expecting the plane to land.
That, in fact, is how Munich Airport works.
Passport officials move from one station to another, all located
on a gallery near the doors through which passengers arrive, to
meet each flight. For international flights, the baggage carousel
is just below the arrival point and is visible from the
Customs officials are a few feet away. Each "module" of the
terminal is self-contained and fully equipped, and passengers can
be out so quickly that they barely notice anything about the
That's a pity. As airports go, it's a nice-looking place: clean
lines, lots of white trim and plenty of glass to let in light.
Clutter is at a minimum because airport authorities maintain strict
control over the types of signs that can be put up; counter cards,
for example, are a no-no. Passenger lounges have seats with
footrests for the weary. Few things are perfect, of course, and
there is a daily "needle hole" -- outbound passport control and
security -- that creates congestion in the afternoons.
But Munich is finally going to embark on an expansion project
that is actually a realization of its initial plan. The original
design, created in the 1960s, called for an H-shaped complex. But
in a saga that will be familiar to many involved in airport
development, local communities balked at the idea of such a huge
facility in their midst. They took their gripes to court in a case
that lasted more than a decade. The outcome was a design that was
significantly reduced in size and that lopped off one side of the
H; the airport was now a T.
But Munich and its environs have changed over the years. It is,
of course, the home of BMW, whose presence is hard to miss, and it
also has become a high-tech enclave; the German unit of Oracle, for
example, is headquartered here. Munich also has Germany's highest
employment rate and highest spending power. In other words, there
are lots and lots of Munich residents who take to the skies every
year on business, and all of them have to pass through that needle
hole. So public support has swung in favor of expanding the
airport, and by 2002 the T will become an H.
Although Munich's two runways are not used at full capacity --
they currently handle 80 flight movements an hour but could handle
90 -- recent record high load factors on flights in and out of the
airport have strained other facilities. US Airways station manager
Barbara Weiretter said, "There are no more gates, no more office
space, no more counters." The new terminal building will double the
capacity of the airport, she said, and it will house Lufthansa and
its alliance partners.
Next year, Munich Airport Center -- almost certainly to be known
as MAC -- will open, providing office space, a communications
center and new shopping experiences.
Taxis into the city can be pricey, but there are all sorts of
nifty and inexpensive substitutes, fully described in the Public
Transport brochure, printed in German and English and available at
stands throughout the airport.
The Lufthansa Airport Bus, which carries passengers from all
airlines, costs 15 deutsche marks (or 25 roundtrip) and makes two
stops: the central rail station in the city center and the
Schwabing area, home to a lot of businesses and the Marriott and
Ramada hotels. The bus operates every 20 minutes, and the trip from
city center takes about 45 minutes. The bus stops in front of each
of the airport terminals.
Munich's rapid transit system serves the airport as well. The
line is called the S-Bahn, and it makes several stops in the city
center. A one-way ticket costs 13.60 deutsche marks.
Passengers going farther afield can take the S-Bahn and make
connections to the German Railway at Ostbahnhof, Hauptbahnhof (the
main station) or Pasing. Several Munich hotels operate airport