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Frankfurt: Airport is gateway to the world

By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 1, 2011

An airport is a fascinating place. People coming and going. Airplanes taking off and landing, being loaded and unloaded. It’s a place where people from around the world converge.

Frankfurt Airport — the third busiest in Europe after London Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle — is no different.

There are a few ways to watch the action at Frankfurt: There is the visitors terrace at Terminal 2, a bus tour that takes you along the flight line or you can just sit in one of the airport’s many bars, restaurants and cafes and watch traveling folk pass by.

Taking the 45-minute bus tour is not unlike taking a plane. You buy tickets, go through a security check and then you are on your way.

The bus joins the busy traffic pattern of vehicles serving and servicing the airplanes. It stops near the runway so you can get a closer look at aircraft taking off and landing.

It drives by the Lufthansa cargo area and past the giant maintenance hangar that can service six Boeing 747s at once.

Nearby is the new air-traffic-control tower. With a new runway due to open north of the airport in October, the new tower will be able to overlook all of the runways.

The bus loops around the new extension of Concourse A, where you get a look at jets pulling away from the gates.

The visitors terrace, once on top of Terminal 1, is now at Terminal 2, overlooking the gates.

From here you can see planes from more than 100 airlines land and take off, flying to almost 300 destinations around the world.

Families waiting for friends to arrive or depart are among the visitors here, but you will also see people with binoculars scanning the airport, scribbling notes into a little book, then popping up to the railing to take photos of planes. These are “tail watchers,” and watching planes is their passion. They note the type of aircraft, airline and tail number of the planes, hoping to see every plane that flies the skies.

Directions

Frankfurt Airport is at the intersection of autobahns A5 and A3 southwest of Frankfurt. Follow the airplane symbols on the signs. Then follow the signs to either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. The tour leaves from Terminal 1, but the visitors terrace is at Terminal 2.

Costs

The tour, which includes admission to the visitors terrace, costs 8 euros for adults and 7 euros for children. There is a family ticket for two adults and up to three children under 16 years of age for 24 euros.
The terrace alone is 5 euros for adults, 3 euros for children and free for kids under 6 years of age.
Parking at the airport is rather expensive at 4 euros per hour. If you are coming from Wiesbaden, taking the train to the airport is cheaper.
Times: Airport tours start daily every hour on the hour between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Buy tickets at the tour desk in the Airport City Mall on Level 0 of Terminal 1. The ticket counter is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The visitors terrace is open daily April through October, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Last admittance is at 5:30 p.m. Entrance to the terrace is in back of the food mall in Terminal 2.

Food

There are plenty of restaurants and snack bars at the airport.

Information

For both the tour and the terrace, you must go through a security check, so take as little as possible with you.
Dress for the weather. Bring binoculars for a closer look at the action.
The tour is in German only, but if you have 25 or more people, you can schedule an English-language tour through the airport’s website: www.frankfurt-airport.com. Click on “Shop & Enjoy” for information on the terrace and tours

abramsm@estripes.osd.mil

A Lufthansa Airbus A380 takes off from Frankfurt International Airport. The A380 is the world's largest passenger plane.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

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