Frankfurt Airport prepared for pent-up travel demand

We speak to the head of Fraport’s terminal resource management department, Sascha Koenig, about the German hub’s readiness to reopen, the reconstruction of Terminal 2, and Covid-19 measures that could be here to stay

Like most airports over the past year, Frankfurt has endured a tough period. But now it is ready for the recovery, with a newly refurbished Terminal 2 set to reopen on June 1.

“We are well prepared for the increasing passenger numbers,” said Sascha Koenig, the head of Fraport’s terminal resource management department, about the airport’s readiness for the restart as operations begin to recover. “All the health protection measures are now basic things we need, starting from ground floor marking, seat blockings and disinfectant machines and plex glass screen protectors.”

Fraport AG
Photo Fraport

After its closure in April of last year, Terminal 2 will finally resume operations from the beginning of June, after travel halted in the early months of 2020. “For more than 14 months, Terminal 2 was out of operation,” explains Koenig. “The basic idea from Fraport’s side is really the investment in healthcare and protection for our passengers, as there will be an expected rise in passenger numbers. We have tried to spread this traffic into existing terminal areas and make use of these widespread spaces.”

Prior to the reopening, the facility went under construction, which he described as an “ongoing” process. “We have been able to work all day long and during the day time, compared to the normal operational procedures when a terminal is in operation. We have replaced some elevators and escalators and we renewed the ceiling of Terminal 2 with huge glass areas, using 3,000 pieces of glass. Additionally, all the check-in counters have been renovated and fitted with new equipment.”

In preparation for the reopening, specific health and safety measures have been introduced throughout the hub. “In Terminal 2 we tried to avoid having the customers really densely packed in just one public area,” Koenig continued. “There are roughly 19,000 ground floor markings in both Terminal 1 and 2, as well as the same amount of seat blockings.”

According to Frankfurt, there are 900 social distancing reminders, 140 large screens displaying health advice, 650 wall and floor stickers across terminal access points and 110 sanitisation stations to help increase customer confidence. “We have also set up several test centres with one operator and have recently added a second operator. In total we have four testing facilities for passengers arriving and departing, meaning the customers can do testing according to their needs,” said Koenig.

The health crisis has shaped many airport operations over the past year, with the introduction of technology enhancements, stringent safety measures and travel restrictions.

“The experience with the Covid-19 pandemic has really influenced the entire business and I’m quite convinced that many of the measures currently in place will remain longer than some of us expect,” reiterated Koenig. “Some of these are quite helpful, if you think of the disinfectant machines, in which we have more than 100 available, this is quite convenient for the passengers and staff, making me think they will remain in place even when the pandemic is over.”

“Moreover, we have seen a more intense use of digital features, alongside biometric border control – so people try to avoid personal contact and make use out of these automated possibilities.”

As the airport prepares to enter the ‘new normal’, hesitancy to travel is still a concern. “Some people might be a little bit reluctant and I think the most important thing is communication and information. Having pre-travel information available for customers, such as how can you prepare and what can you expect, together with the help of airlines and agencies, then I think people will begin to realise that travel is safe and there is no hazard,” concluded Koenig.