Ryanair's hub in Germany. Just don't expect it to be in Frankfurt

In 1953, at the beginning of the cold war, American fighter jets started to blast over the picturesque, mountainous and agricultural area that is the Hunsrueck, 100km west of Frankfurt am Main in (then) West Germany, as the U.S. airforce chose the tiny village of Hahn to become the neighbour of a huge airbase, protecting the puny Germans from the communist oppressors of the east.

The base and the little village were good to each other, as the former provided jobs and money and the latter bars and "hotels" for the former. Everybody was happy and content, until a man called Gorbatschov said "Down with that sort of thing", and singlehandedly ended the cold war, just like that.

In 1990 all the nice Americans were gone and the good people of Hahn were left without 100 million DM of annual american spending money and 400 of their jobs. Then some smart person had THE idea:

"Hey, we have an old base, we have a runway, let's make an airport. In the middle of nowhere!!!"

The people of Hahn were delighted. Well, some of them, as there were some who actually were pretty happy that there were no more planes blasting above them, but these dissenters were quickly silenced in the name of infrastructural progress.

So the runway was renovated, and 1993 Condor, the charter operation of Lusthansa started to fly people to Mallorca (where else?), 7000 passengers in the first year. In the first couple of years not a lot was happening: some more charter flights were set up, some cargo companies started flying to Hahn (the runway is long enough for even the biggest Russian transporters, like the Antonovs).

By 1999, charter flights perked up to about 25000 passengers per year, but a then small, unknown Irish low cost airline called Ryanair chose Hahn as a new route from London Stansted. People were pretty sceptic, but passenger volume with Ryanair shot up to 140000 a year and after adding a couple of routes to their schedule, Ryanair declared in 2001 Hahn their new German Hub. By that time passenger volume was already 450000 per annum, and new terminal buildings were added.

Today (2003) Frankfurt - Hahn (which is actually 90 minutes by bus away from Frankfurt) has two brand new terminals, 1.1 million passengers and added a couple of airlines (Volareweb, Brittannia) and was voted Germany's 3rd popular airport, mainly due to check in - and baggage handling speed.

Not bad for a little village in the middle of nowhere, ay?

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