Frankfurt, Germany: Reach for the sky . . .

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Frankfurt, Germany: Reach for the sky . . .

Those of us lucky enough to travel – and given the crowds at airports everywhere that seems just about everyone these days – have our list of common complaints: delays, queues, longer and longer walks to the gate (has anyone ever had Gate 1?), kids running around the baggage carousel, important but inaudible announcements . . .

Usually people grumble quietly to themselves and sometimes other passengers, but some bellow at the staff – about delays because of weather or technical problems? – whom they consider servants or a lower life form.

Yet when you consider all the things that could possibly go wrong with international travel it's a wonder any of us get off the ground at all. And many airports offer quiet spaces, prayer rooms, indoor gardens, outdoor restaurants and bars to watch the planes take off . . .

There's a museum in one area of Seoul's airport at Inchoeon.

frankfurtRecently we were in Frankfurt which opened in 1936 and today boasts being the busiest airport in Germany. It is the fourth largest in Europe and in 2023 – when the third terminal opens – it will be the biggest with around 75 million passengers a year.

We had time to kill there before a flight so took their cheap (euro 7) 45-minute airport tour, and it was terrific.

Okay, it was in German. But as there were just another local couple and their kid, and the three of us (two of whom have a German surname and get the odd sentence), our delightful young guide Anina offered a translation.

For $20 I was as close as I'll ever get to the underbelly of the vast, six-storey high A380-800 airbus and watched a few of them burn rubber on the tarmac when they landed just a little way off.

Our bus tour – which started with a rigorous security check even President Trump might approve of – took us around and beneath the sleek flying machines of some of the 80 airlines which fly into Frankfurt, out onto a runway, past massive and rather beautiful looking hangers for the big birds, then stopped for a while as one plane after another arrived or departed.

From the outside and at a distance, Frankfurt Airport seems a quiet and orderly place, but more than 80,000 people work there and it is Germanys largest employer.

frankfurt2You can get a bit boggled by figures but some are impressive: there are 500 different companies and employers in the complex (yes, there's even an on-site lawyer and dental clinic); runways are 4000m long; the A380 fuel tanks hold 320,000 litres and the airport's depot has 10 tanks holding 186 million litres of jet fuel; there are 400 firefighters working four shifts . . .

Frankfurt offers a number of interesting and time-filling tours, including a two-hour airport by night sunset option, a 100-minute fire department tour and even a birthday party tour for children.

If you've got time to spare and wonder what it must be like out there on the tarmac where people wear fluro-jackets and huge noise-cancelling headgear, a Frankfurt Airport bus tour takes you there and allows you to stare up at the enormous A380 and wonder, “How . . .?”

Graham Reid paid his own way to Europe. For more information on the Frankfurt Airport tours see www.frankfurt-airport.com

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