Today, research and development are organized primarily in networks. Cooperation and communication are basic requirements for success. Contrary to the assumption of the previous decade, that the development of modern telecommunication with video telephony and “virtual meetings” would make travelling redundant, the opposite effect has occurred. People are looking for personal contact, research groups establish themselves in one place temporarily and conferences remain an important pillar for the professional exchange of ideas.
In this respect, mobility is an important production factor, even more a productivity factor, in an internationally diverse, often global division of labour. At distances of more than 400 kilometres, this mobility can only be efficiently assured by air travel.
Unlike the charter traffic serving tourists, in which travellers are able to choose destination and time, the business traveller is less flexible. Date and place are fixed and should be met with minor pre- and post-flight time lags as well as being achievable within short travelling times. This leads to other requirements on the quality of flight connections than in tourism. High frequencies and a large selection of final destinations are required.
An attractive range of intercontinental destinations is offered in Europe by less than ten airports – the so-called hubs. Besides the amount of passengers of the region itself, all hubs are located in the catchment area of large cities or economically strong regions, an additional amount of passengers in form of transfer traffic is generated from secondary airports. This alone justifies the operation of long-haul aircrafts.
For the secondary airports it is therefore important to be connected to the international air traffic network efficiently via hubs. Criteria for this are the number of flights per day in order to realise short connecting times. Three flights per day are regarded as the minimum.
Dresden Airport is able to offer a vast number of such connections. The two most important hubs of Germany, Frankfurt and Munich, can be reached up to seven times a day. Vienna and Zurich are also served three times daily. Thereby many connecting flights with transfer times of 60 to 90 minutes are reachable within Europe or inter-continentally.
The airport therewith fulfils its task as the most important transportation infrastructure for the research and economic location of Dresden.
Additional (European) direct connections are intensively being worked on. Evidence of sufficient demand for their justification is only possible for a couple of destinations, due to the limited size of the catchment area and the below average purchasing power, in combination with the lack of prominent company headquarters and travel-intensive services.
The airport obtains knowledge regarding the demand of scientific institutions and industry through the analysis of final destinations of departing passengers, company surveys in collaboration with economic development corporations and chambers of commerce as well as the evaluation of data from travel agencies. The development of intercontinental passengers in the past five years has been considerable. During that period the accumulated growth to Asia accounts for 74 per cent and to North America 25 per cent.
In order to manage air transport efficiently, safely and comfortably for travellers, much has been done at the airport in the past ten years. In 2001, a new terminal along with a car park housing 1,500 parking spaces was put into operation. With its own motorway exit and a commuter railway station within the terminal building, the airport has an optimal intermodal connection. This guarantees short distances and a speedy arrival and departure. The airport thus ensures that the time the passenger gains in the air, is not lost on the ground. Regularly conducted surveys show that this is highly appreciated by passengers.
The runway, which was rebuilt and extended in 2007, will form a stable backbone for the handling of air traffic for many years. Including planning, application and project approval this ambitious project was implemented in merely three years. With a length of 2,850 metres, the runway is sufficiently sized for the route network of the airport, which is characterized by short and medium-haul traffic. Intercontinental flights are also possible, however with restrictions regarding payload and range for some types of aircraft.
Significant innovations are taking place below the surface. In cooperation with the airlines, the technical basis for internet and automated check-in has been implemented. This makes the lead time before the flight shorter and more flexible. With a separate area for general aviation, the airport is also well-equipped for business charter traffic.
As a result of the size of the terminal, which arose from the reconstruction of a historical production hangar of the GDR aircraft industry, conference rooms and a large event level could be integrated into the building. Therewith, a range of seminars and medium-sized conferences for up to 700 participants can be served, which is not only used by companies of the neighbourhood, but of the entire Dresden area. This product benefits also from the infrastructure of the airport, having fast access routes and sufficient parking space.
The surrounding industry is likewise a beneficiary of the development of the infrastructure. In the north of Dresden, the direct environment of the airport, many high-tech companies have settled in several industrial areas. The aviation industry can also relate to the good old days. The modification of older passenger aircrafts to air freighters, fatigue tests of aircraft structures and the manufacture of components take place right next to the airport. With the inclusion of the aviation industry, 2,900 people are currently employed at the site.
The author, born in Seattle (USA) in 1964, is an industrial engineer and the Gerneral Manager of the Dresden International Airport. Dr. Hupe studied and obtained his doctorate at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. From 1995 to 1998, he worked as a project manager at the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau in the area of aircraft and airport financing. Later, he was head of corporate financing at the Fraport AG.