Sunday, May 15, 2011

Frankfurt Airport's Slo-Mo Upgrade

When I first started flying to and through western Germany's Frankfurt International Airport in the early 1990s, I liked it a lot. The airport, located just outside Frankfurt am Main, Germany's financial capital and knowledge-industry nexus, was well-run, easy to use and big but not too big if you were a passenger changing planes at this busy European hub.

Then, ad hoc expansion combined with congestion made Frankfurt Airport an unwieldy place to use, especially compared to Munich International - built from scratch in Bavaria, in Germany's picturesque south. Frankfurt Airport seemed to me by 2000 a workaday airport whose physical limitations made actually working there a real pain. Still, I flew through Frankfurt often, chiefly due to its excellent connectivity to other European cities and beyond, and because it is the biggest hub and home of Lufthansa, Germany's de facto national flag carrier.

After a recent visit, I am happy to report that Frankfurt's shambolic reputation - the word is British slang for haphazard, notional service, originally applied to London Heathrow Airport - should in the mid-term become a thing of the past.

In October, Frankfurt will open a new runway, helping to ease the back-up and flight delays caused by the 55 million passengers expected to use the airport in 2011.

According to Robert Payne, who handles corporate communications for international press at Fraport - the company that operates the airport - Frankfurt Airport has acquired the former site of an air force base. This, Payne told me, will enable the airport to build a third passenger terminal. Originally slated for completion in 2015, the new terminal will actually open in 2017 or 2018. This, Payne said, will enable the airport to handle 25 million more air travelers a year. Additionally, Terminals 1 and 2 are being renovated.

Oh, and coming along, too, is a new office-and-retail complex called Squaire, constructed atop the already existing ICE rail station at the airport. Glassy, classy Squaire will include two Hilton hotels. The ICE rail station, and an already-existing DR train station combine with the A3 and A5 motorways - which intersect at the airport - to make Frankfurt Airport a model of intermodal transport. All this development, Payne said, is designed to transform the airport into a 21st century Airport City. Already, some 73,000 people work there.

So, Frankfurt Airport is getting a major upgrade, albeit in slow-motion. If these plans play out the way they should, the airport's shambolic rep will be no more. And to that, this frequent flier says "amen.''

No comments:

Post a Comment