October 1, 2022
Celebrating 50 Years: Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1

Celebrating 50 Years: Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1

DALLAS – Frankfurt Airport (FRA) inaugurated a new era on March 14, 1972, when Terminal 1, one of Europe’s most advanced facilities of its kind, opened its doors to the public.

For the first time, all key passenger-facing processes, from check-in to boarding, were housed under one roof. On the same day, intermodal transportation was launched at FRA: the airport’s underground regional railway station (Frankfurt Airport station), a first for the Federal Republic of Germany, provided direct access to Germany’s national rail network.

A few days later, the old and already too small Empfangsanlage Ost (Terminal East, literally “Arrival Facility East”), which opened in 1958, would close.

An Iran Air Boeing 707–320B at Frankfurt Airport in 1970. Photo: By Ralf Manteufel – http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/1275670/, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17554923


The earliest plans for the new “Terminal Mitte” (Central Terminal), as it was originally dubbed, had been drawn up in the 1950s. In 1962, it was determined that a new terminal that could handle 30 million people per year was needed. The construction of the terminal began in 1965. The year before, the southern runway had been extended to 3,750 meters (12,303 feet).

In 1970, a new hangar was opened, which could accommodate six jet aircraft and was the largest hangar in the world at the time. Overall, the project took seven years to complete and employed up to 2,500 personnel on-site. Around a billion Deutschmarks was spent on the terminal amenities and the subterranean railway station.

The baggage handling system was and continues to be the backbone of terminal operations; it was the key to achieving passenger transfer times of only 45 minutes from the start.

The terminal was built with a capacity of 30 million passengers per year in mind. In 1972, the airport served a total of 12 million passengers. In 1992, the 30-million threshold was broken for the first time. With 70 million people, of which 80% passed through T1, 2019 was FRA’s busiest year ever.

Fraport has invested roughly 4.5 billion euros in the terminal’s expansion and renovation since its opening.

Check-in concourse in Terminal 1. Photo: By Tupungato, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3562707

Ongoing Development

T1 is still the hub of the airport and a shining example of its ongoing infrastructure development. Additional modifications will be made to Terminal 1 under the theme “Building the Future — Transforming Terminal 1.” From 2027, 16 security lanes will enable smooth passenger flows and transfers thanks to a redesigned layout and cutting-edge technology.

According to the World Aeronautical Press Agency, Fraport has already implemented numerous digital and automated processes throughout FRA and is continuing to do so in close collaboration with the airlines operating at the airport. The entire passenger experience will also be made faster and more convenient thanks to biometrics.

Further, FRA’s Sky Line shuttle will be available from the north to the south of the airport via a new station at T1 in the future. The airport says the journey between Terminals 1 and 3 will take only eight minutes on the people mover.

Featured image: Terminal 1 overview. Photo: Frankfurt Airport

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

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