An interview with Daniel Burkard, Director External Relations, Deputy Airport Director (Commercial Development), Moscow Domodedovo Airport. By Ross Falconer
The eyes of the world will be on Russia this summer, as the country hosts the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Moscow will, of course, host many of the games, including one of the semi-finals and the final itself – both at Luzhniki Stadium.
Daniel Burkard, Director External Relations, Deputy Airport Director (Commercial Development), explains that Moscow Domodedovo Airport expects to handle close to a million additional passengers during the month-long tournament. “Our main task will be to keep the queues short, and to process passengers quickly and comfortably, so they have enough time to enjoy the pleasant features of the airport such as our shops or 40 cafés, lounges, bars and restaurants,” he says. “A good example of our tailor-made solutions for FIFA World Cup visitors is that they can use all trains connecting the airport with Moscow’s city centre, including the non-stop AeroExpress, for free, just by showing their stadium tickets and ‘Fan-ID’.”
Indeed, the FIFA World Cup-related traffic will build on passenger numbers that are already performing well. Around 33 million passengers are expected through Moscow Domodedovo in 2018 (30.7 million were handled in 2017). “We have new airline partners launching services to Moscow Domodedovo, and existing airlines increasing frequencies and aircraft size,” Burkard comments.
Domodedovo has, nevertheless, experienced some traffic changes since international sanctions were imposed against Russia. “Passenger numbers temporarily went down,” says Burkard. “The reason was not so much the sanctions, which the individual person in Russia does not feel much about, but the economic crisis Russia started to come out of. The Rouble having lost almost half of its value, or let’s better say, the exchange rate having become more realistic, drove a number of Russian holiday airlines out of business. On top of this, the exchange rate made Russians want to explore their own country more than before.”
This is why, in 2018, total passenger numbers are expected to exceed pre-crisis levels, but the split between international and domestic passengers will be different than it was four years ago. “Now we have slightly more domestic passengers. It used to be the other way around,” Burkard notes.
Commenting on the challenges of doing business in Russia during politically difficult times, he adds: “We are a private business, luckily by no means directly affected by the sanctions, and we believe that visitors will continue to come to Russia, and Russians will continue to travel abroad. Doing business, for my part, has not become more difficult since political relations with the West have cooled down. But as a company active in the travel and cargo sector, we of course welcome any improvement of political relations, as it would stimulate more travel and transportation of goods to and via our airport.”
New international terminal and new runway
The airport’s brand-new international terminal opens in phases, beginning in mid-June. It is effectively an extension to the existing terminal, as it forms part of Domodedovo’s “all-under-one-roof concept”, which is designed to make it easy for travellers to reach all terminal areas, check-in facilities, arrival halls, shopping and entertainment locations, without having to leave the building.
“In a climate with temperatures ranging from -35°C to +35°C and above, we would regard anything else as not very customer-friendly,” Burkard explains.
The total size of the new structure is 239,000sqm, which includes 44,000sqm of commercial space (16,000sqm dedicated to retail). “The capacity is at least 15 million additional passengers per year. In the future, all international flights will arrive at and depart from what we internally refer to as T2. Here we will, for the first time at Moscow Domodedovo, segregate arrivals from departures using different levels.”
Travel Retail Domodedovo, a joint venture between Gebr. Heinemann and local company Greenway, won the tender to be exclusive duty free operator in Domodedovo’s new terminal. It will operate 7,000sqm of retail space – around 4,000sqm in the form of a walkthrough shop directly behind the security checkpoint, and two large areas for various fashion and accessories boutiques.
“Travellers can expect the most modern and customer-friendly airport shopping area in Eastern Europe,” says Burkard. “The range of brands and products will top everything offered in our duty free shops so far. Travel Retail Domodedovo was carefully-selected, following a very detailed process, because of its attractive concept, which has to be looked at in combination with the experience the two companies bring into their joint venture. Russia is not an easy market, but a market very responsive to fresh ideas, prestigious brands and high-quality products. This combination is a perfect match with DME.”
Another important project is the airport’s new runway, which goes into operation in the second half of 2018. “The capacity increase that we will gain doesn’t come directly from additional runway capacity, but rather from the fact that the new runway will be located further away from the terminal building, allowing us to add terminal capacity in that direction in the future,” Burkard explains. “It also comes with a new set of taxiways, including a high-speed taxiway in the location of the current runway number 2. This will speed up operations considerably and give us more capacity without more runways.”
‘DME lab’: an “endless source of creativity”
Moscow Domodedovo is progressive in its approach to the passenger experience. Indeed, DME Chairman, Dr Dmitry Kamenshchik, initiated the creation of an innovation lab several years ago. Myriad working groups are constantly looking at new technologies, new behaviours, and examples of global best practice from both within and outside the industry.
“We have presentations and coordination meetings on an almost weekly basis, with Dr. Kamenshchik always participating himself,” Burkard comments. “He is not only our Chairman, but also concentrates very much on strategic development and is extremely interested in any form of innovation. Many of the solutions we explore in ‘DME lab’ are tested somewhere in the airport under real-life conditions, rather than to relying on reports from testers outside. We employ approximately 18,700 people – this is a sheer endless source of creativity, which we would like to dip into even deeper.”
Looking ahead, the new international part of Domodedovo’s terminal will grow even larger during the next few years. There are also plans to start constructing additional terminal space for domestic flights, with building permission already granted. “This month, we opened our first multi-storey car park, and I am sure it will not remain the only one. Last, but not least, we continue developing the Domodedovo Aerotropolis on 7,000 hectares of land that have been reserved for this. The airport will, in the future, not just be an airport, but be at the heart of a new city development dedicated to business, learning and living. As you can see – we have a lot of plans for the future.”