Passengers travelling to or via Frankfurt Airport with Lufthansa or one of its Star Alliance partner airlines can look forward to new facilities and smoother connections with the opening of the new A-Plus section of the German mega-hub, which officially opens Wednesday 10 October.
The A-Plus pier is attached where the A and Z sections split off from terminal 1, right in the heart of "Lufthansa-land" at Frankfurt.
In addition to a newer, lighter and brighter terminal, business travellers will see several specific improvements in the Frankfurt experience. Fewer flights will require a bus trip to the plane, there'll be 7,600 square metres of new lounge space, and business/first class passengers will see fast-track lanes.
Fewer bus transfers...but just as much walking
With the opening of A-Plus, new gates are available that can either take 8 larger aircraft or 11 smaller planes.
Four A380-capable gates have three boarding jetways, while the rest have two jetways -- all of which means there's priority boarding for passengers in the pointy end of the plane.
A-Plus is intended to reduce the need for passengers to board airport buses to drive them around the terminal -- a pain for any passenger, but especially galling for business travellers who pick seats up front to be able to make a quick exit.
However, the lack of buses won't speed up connections for all travellers. The new A-Plus pier is 790m long on its own -- not including the extra couple of hundred metres to get into the terminal -- and there's no internal peoplemover or tram, just moving walkways.
New "domestic Europe" levels
A big improvement for Frankfurt is the four-level arrangement of the terminals.
There are separate levels for the Schengen Area (the 25 countries in Europe that form a simplified visa zone) and non-Schengen passengers.
Think of it as a "domestic Europe" arrivals and departures floor on level 2, with "international" departures on level 3 and "international" arrivals on level 4. Level one holds the baggage and bus gate stops.
That's useful if you're connecting through Frankfurt from Schengen to Schengen -- connecting from a German regional city to another EU country, for example, or from France to Scandinavia.
Non-Schengen departures and arrivals -- UK flights or to/from Australia via Asia -- should be faster too.
Five new lounges for Lufthansa/Star Alliance
Lufthansa has five new lounges on offer in A-Plus, split between Schengen and non-Schengen.
They're usefully situated at the "elbow" between A-Plus and the older A/Z gates, so you'll be able to use them even if you're not heading to the A-Plus gates.
Schengen flights will see:
- a First Class lounge (for first class passengers and Lufthansa top-tier cardholders)
- a Senator lounge (for Star Alliance Gold and Lufthansa Senator frequent flyers)
- a Business lounge (for business class and Lufthansa Frequent Traveller-level members).
Non-Schengen flights (which, for Australians, mainly means long-haul flights to Asia plus UK services) get new Senator and Business lounges.
Hopefully, the new lounges should relieve some of the pressure on the existing Lufthansa lounges in Frankfurt, which are overcrowded and deeply unimpressive.
Fast-track options for business travellers
A Lufthansa spokesperson tells Australian Business Traveller that our readers will find "dedicated security lanes for First and Business Class passengers" in the A-Plus terminal, which promises to speed up the usual wait at Frankfurt's security.
"Dedicated boarding gates and [a Lufthansa] service counter" are also on offer, reducing your queueing once you're inside the terminal. You'll find Lufthansa's newest electronic boarding gates too.
Unfortunately, though, business travellers will have to slalom around milling shoppers in the unavoidable duty free maze once they escape security.
Lufthansa's spokesperson confirmed that the aisle is only four metres wide, which sounds a lot until you take into account the crowds attracted by displays and samples, the space taken up by a family pushing a stroller, and shoppers wandering aimlessly around getting in your way.
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