In the past 7 years or so and over 6,000 posts, I have never really written about what it is like to transit an airport (except for the new Istanbul Airport since I was there the day it opened). I mean, this is something that hundreds of millions of people do all the and there is nothing that special about it. But, there is nothing normal during this time of the worldwide pandemic. That includes transiting one of the largest airports in the world.
A Look at Frankfurt Airport During Covid-19
Today, June 15, is an important day for Germany and other EU countries. It is a day that internal borders within the EU begin to open up (with Greece declaring it the start of their summer tourism season). But, being in the Frankfurt Airport today, it is plain to see that people are not traveling by air much at all – not just yet. Lufthansa and Frankfurt Airport are preparing for a ramp up but right now, it is an almost eery thing to see.
This is what it is like in Frankfurt Airport right now. The place is so quiet and empty. This video is from Z but it is like this in others as well. Turn the volume up to hear how quiet. #travel #frankfurtairport pic.twitter.com/9lMvQ0eJdt
— Charlie Barkowski (@runwithmiles) June 15, 2020
Empty Areas from A to Z
I arrived this morning into Frankfurt from Athens as a transit passenger heading to the US. I arrived at the end of the A series of gates and had to make my way to Z gates. Normally, Frankfurt Airport is a very, very busy airport – particularly in the summertime. Plus, given its size, it can take a while to go from gates to gates.
Today, I arrived mid-morning and the place was eerily quiet – almost like I was in an area I wasn’t supposed to be in. Most shops are closed, gate counters are empty, and the moving walkways are all shut down. I did not count but my estimate was that I did not see more than 200 people from my arrival gate at the end of A through my departure gate in Z – and that includes police and cleaning staff.
Even as I write this, I am looking at two beautiful Lufthansa 747 aircraft and a few smaller Airbus planes – and that is it in the area near the control tower. None of the aircraft that I can see are moving and no new aircraft are pulling in (though there are some planes coming and going, obviously, just not in this part of the airport that I can currently see).
Oh, and speaking of flights, here is a flight board with 6 screens showing flights over a 8.5 hour period!
What is Different
If you hate lines, you would love Frankfurt Airport right now. Even though there are the place markers for keeping the 1.5 meters distance between people in areas where there would be a queue, there are no people to stand on those markers. The customer service counters have a few staff but no customers. Even going through passport control was an absolute breeze with several counters open and only me in the line area.
Almost No Lounges
If you are someone that likes to get to a lounge during a transit for the extra comfort, free wifi, free food and drinks, and added quiet, you will be disappointed. There is a single Lufthansa lounge open (a Senator lounge) but once you clear into Z gates, you cannot get to it. But, if it is quiet you are looking for (as well as free wifi), you can basically pick any place in the airport and you have it.
The bad part is that there are only a few cafes/bakeries open. I bought a coffee at one shop and was talking to the lone employee behind the counter. He said that during normal times, they would have like 7-8 employees working there with just one employee taking dishes from the tables when patrons were finished. Plus, there would be huge lines of customers waiting to get their caffeine fix before boarding their flights. Today, it is just him and there was no line.
So Very Quiet!
The almost total quiet is punctuated from time to time with announcements that ring through the airport since there are no bodies to absorb the sound. They are the usual announcements but with one more frequent than others – that wearing a mask is required while on the airport grounds.
This is my first trip since the coronavirus started and it is a very strange experience. I knew things were bad in the travel industry as a result of the shutdowns and such but seeing it is so much more different.
Hopefully, things will get back to normal before too long. I almost cannot wait to be standing in lines again – kind of. 🙂