Innsbruck Airport have finally acknowledged what most who’ve recently travelled through its modest terminal will attest: modernization, ergo an enlargement of especially the post-security side of its operations, is desperately needed. Architectural design tenders are expected to be submitted during 2019, with construction slated to commence in 2022.

Although a welcome development the announced timescale highlights an issue that should have been addressed several years ago. While the starting gun for vital improvements has finally been sounded, it could be another 4-6 years before the project’s completion has been signed off.

Even during the height of the summer season Innsbruck’s Kranebitten Airport can, on a weekday, justifiably be described as sleepy, often only receiving and dispatching flights to Frankfurt and Vienna. It must therefore be something of a shock to the system for its conscientious staff when Saturday comes, bringing a stampede of predominantly UK-based flights chartered by Lakes and Mountains tour operators. Perhaps the ground staff are instead relieved to busy, although this all or nothing approach to scheduling aircraft movements would be improved by spacing out flights during the week, with additional services on a Wednesday from the UK giving greater flexibility to those wishing to stay in the region for 10/11 nights, instead of for the usual seven days or a fortnight.

The ski season is obviously an entirely different beast, representing the Tirol’s high season. The intensity of weekend flight operations at Kranebitten again highlights how ill-equipped the minimal footprint of the terminal is to cater for multiple aircraft movements arriving, and departing, in quick succession. This is not a commentary on the airport’s diligent staff, but the lack of room and facilities for travellers once they’ve passed through security. Feeling at times more like a greenhouse than a passenger terminal, much needed ‘lebensraum’ will give sufficient space for several flights with high load factors to simultaneously depart without a palpable sense of relief to have left behind what must be one of the most stunning backdrops to an airport anywhere in Europe.

Innsbruck does though remain an airport with otherwise modest ambitions, seeking to regain lost ground precipitated by the respective demises of Air Berlin and Monarch. Although once more aiming for an annual figure of 1.1 million passengers, there is significant growth potential to be exploited. One only has to view the airport’s webcam during the week to see how at times it can be described as deserted. Despite being a modestly sized regional capital Innsbruck and the Tirol region over which it presides significantly punch above their weight, affording countless sightseeing, winter sports and hiking opportunities in numerous resorts and towns. Being a considerable driver of the Austrian economy through the wealth created by its tourist industry, the Tirol would benefit from a sympathetic augmentation of operations at Kranebitten, which for the time being at least remains out of step with the rampant, seemingly endless expansion of cableways and pistes throughout the state.

It is to be acknowledged that many of the Tirol’s visitors arrive by car from neighbouring countries, although its enduring popularity with the British and burgeoning reputation with those seeking Alpine fresh air and regional gemutlichkeit* would justify additional flights into Innsbruck. Whether being held back by a desire to remain a more bijou operation or reportedly high landing charges, there is obvious scope to expand year-round operations – especially with Low Cost Carriers from UK airports further north than Luton. Environmental considerations must though remain at the forefront of all plans, although the sporadic scheduling of flights presumably causes few ecological concerns and issues with local residents.

A region for all seasons, not just the winter, the Tirol and its capital can cater for different demographics and expectations as each yearly juncture passes to the next. Can Innsbruck Airport therefore mirror the region’s prodigious reputation by expanding not only its terminal building, but also a flight roster with more balance and variety?

Source material and further information:

Tiroler Tageszeitung: www.tt.com/wirtschaft/standorttirol/14876750-91/flughafen-innsbruck-neuer-terminal-fix-und-mehr-fl%C3%BCge.csp

Austria.info(Gemutlichkeit): www.austria.info/at/aktivitaten/familie/austrian-gemutlichkeit