The opening of the new pier came less than a year after the inauguration of the airport’s fourth runway and provides yet another example of the dedication of Fraport to supporting passenger growth at Germany’s busiest hub airport. The facility – which is for the exclusive use of Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners – increases the airport’s capacity to 65 million per year (2011: 56.4 million).
“The new Pier A-Plus represents a quantum leap in Fraport’s strategy to secure the competitiveness and future capabilities of Frankfurt Airport,” said Dr. Stefan Schulte, Chairman of the Executive Board, Fraport. “We’ve created additional space for up to six million passengers per year. This extra capacity will allow us to meet traffic growth expected in the coming years and to strengthen our role as one of the world’s leading aviation hubs.”
One of the key features of Pier A-Plus is its suitability for the operations of wide-body aircraft. Seven docking positions are available – four have been designed for the A380 and are served by three passenger bridges, while a further three positions with two passenger bridges each have been designed for the likes of the Boeing 747-8 and A340. Alternatively, highlighting the in-built flexibility, 11 narrow-body aircraft can be handled simultaneously.
Schulte added: “This terminal expansion also sets new standards for the travel experience of our passengers and for terminal management. Our guests from around the world will benefit from advanced handling facilities and a wide range of shops and restaurants. Easier transferring between short-haul and long-haul flights will result in the enhanced comfort of our customers.” At 54% (every second passenger), Frankfurt already boasts the highest transfer rate of European hubs. Also of great importance: the goal of the A-Plus building design is to reduce the energy demand of technical facilities and contribute to FRA’s CO2 reduction commitment.
Expansive retail offer
The emphasis on retail in Pier A-Plus is evident. Of the 185,000sqm of usable floor space, around 12,000sqm is dedicated to 60 shops and restaurants, which are mainly concentrated at two central marketplaces. In a first for Frankfurt Airport, the ‘walkthrough’ shopping concept has been adopted, meaning travellers pass through the Duty Free and Travel Value shops immediately after the security checkpoint.
Of the 12,000sqm of retail space, 5,000sqm is operated by Gebr. Heinemann – the retailer’s largest retail floor space in a single airport – and includes a flagship 2,000sqm store and two 500sqm last-minute shops near the departure gates.
Schulte’s reference to an enhanced passenger experience is also supported by the inclusion of five passenger lounges in Pier A-Plus. As well as a First Class lounge, there are two Senator and two Business lounges. Elsewhere in the pier, to help make the passenger experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, longer, wider moving walkways have been installed and the waiting areas include seats with integrated power outlets and USB ports, so passengers can charge their mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices while they wait for their flight.
To ensure passengers would be impressed by these amenities, Fraport made every effort possible and Pier A-Plus’ opening was preceded by a stringent testing period, which included opening the terminal to 2,000 volunteer passengers who took part in an eight-day trial. The tests covered wayfinding, security control, passport control and boarding processes, and all participants were invited to share their views with Fraport to highlight any potential areas of improvement.
Preparing for future growth
The opening of Pier A-Plus followed a positive first nine months of 2012, during which Frankfurt Airport’s passenger numbers increased by +3.3% year-on-year to 44.1 million.
“We’re pleased with the progress, especially given the marketplace out there,” Fraport stated. “It’s a difficult environment and we’re still able to grow traffic, particularly on the passenger side of our operations.”
Also, this growth recorded in the first three-quarters of 2012 was achieved in spite of 3,350 strike-related flight cancellations in February, March, August and September.
The impact of the European economic downturn on Frankfurt Airport has been tempered by the airport’s status as a global hub and the fact that around 40% of its traffic is intercontinental. Key to retaining this status was the addition of the fourth runway in October last year. It has initially increased air traffic movements from 82 to over 90 per hour, a figure that will eventually rise to more than 120 per hour.
“Runway Northwest and the construction of the new Pier A-Plus terminal area are major projects that have significantly enhanced the quality and reliability of our intercontinental hub, while providing Frankfurt Airport with the necessary capacity growth reserves, along with a noticeable improvement in punctuality,” Schulte said.
Although Pier A-Plus will satisfy the capacity requirements for the near-to-medium-term, Fraport is planning well ahead and site preparation work is currently underway for the next major development – Terminal 3. Already (since last year) some of the apron aircraft stands for the future Terminal 3 have been completed and are being used day in, day out at this busy global hub.
The planning process for the new terminal has recently been completed and construction is tentatively scheduled to commence towards the end of 2013. The addition of the new terminal will have a significant impact on Frankfurt Airport’s capacity – increasing it by 25 million to a total of 90 million. While a strict construction schedule is not yet in place, Fraport is expecting the first phase to be complete and operational by late 2016 or early 2017.
For now, however, the focus remains on Pier A-Plus, which will provide the necessary capacity and high-level of facilities that Frankfurt Airport’s passengers have come to expect.