Airport review: Frankfurt Airport, Germany - for one of Europe's major hubs, it's shabby

THE AIRPORT

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

THE FLIGHTS

OU412 from Split (Croatia), economy; QR70 to Doha (Croatia), economy

THE ARRIVAL

Wait… I'm in Frankfurt? What am I even doing in Germany? This is a rerouted journey home after my flight from Dubrovnik to Zagreb was cancelled due to high winds, and became a bus ride and then a flight from Split to Frankfurt, an overnight stop, and an onward journey to Doha. So the arrival here is frantic as some passengers race to get off the plane and catch connecting flights, whereas I can afford to dawdle along in a very long customs queue, before eventually collecting my baggage and making my way to an airport hotel. Those arriving here from Frankfurt city – or indeed anywhere in Germany, in fact – have efficient and affordable train connections to the airport terminals.

THE LOOK

Here's something more to puzzle over: Frankfurt is the busiest airport in Germany, and the fourth busiest in all of Europe, a vital hub connecting an EU powerhouse's main financial base with the rest of the world. And yet, this place is shabby as. I'm arriving in Terminal 1 and departing from the same place, and it's awful, with low ceilings, narrow corridors, and a noticeable lack of facilities. There's a third terminal currently under construction here, which was planned to open by 2020, but has instead blown out now to 2026.

CHECK-IN

In these strange COVID-affected times, there is extreme demand for some flights, and almost no demand for others. Apparently, my flight to Doha falls into the latter category, because I arrive to check in a good three hours early to ensure no mishaps, and there's not a soul there waiting (and, I later discover, only 50 or so passengers on the entire flight). I'm checked in and given an exit row, free of charge, by the friendly attendant before I can even bid guten morgen.

SECURITY

Though Frankfurt is notorious for long security queues, it's quite smooth for my departing flight. Within 15 minutes I've been spat out into the airside terminal, instantly wondering if I'm actually in the right place. Because...

FOOD AND DRINK

…OK, where are all the facilities? Have I missed the food court? Have I somehow skipped the airy main atrium? I wander for a good 10 minutes or so until I realise I've actually covered all of the territory and this is it. There is a small food court, on an upper level, and it contains such heavy hitters as "Goethe Bar", and "Puro Gusto Italian Coffee Bar". This feels like the Aldi version of well-known eateries. I end up sitting down at "Deli Bros Fine Food Restaurant" and have a pretty average coffee and a pastry. Fortunately, last night I was outside the airport proper, at a transport hub called The Squaire, where I got to visit the Paulaner beer garden for a sausage and a hefeweizen.

RETAIL THERAPY

Strap yourself in for another underwhelming experience if you're planning to shop before you flop. Terminal 1 has a few duty-free outlets and a smattering of high fashion and electronics brands – but really, nothing to write home about. Or include in your airport review.

PASSING TIME

There's free Wi-Fi for passengers at Frankfurt Airport, though access to the network is patchy and I have little success, relying on 4G while I pick at a stale croissant and watch the crowds build at the boarding gates. There's a Visitor Centre in Terminal 1, though it costs 12 euros ($18) to enter, and it's just a place to learn more about the airport, which again seems utterly baffling to this traveller.

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THE VERDICT

I don't encounter any major hassles or disruptions during my 20 or so hours at Frankfurt Airport and its surrounds – mostly, I'm just confused by its shabby condition and lack of facilities. Not at all what you would expect from one of Europe's major hubs. See frankfurt-airport.com

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★½

Ben Groundwater travelled as a guest of Emerald Cruises. See emeraldcruises.com.au