On March 14, 1972, Frankfurt Airport (FRA) entered a new era: With the opening of Terminal 1, one of the most modern terminal buildings in Europe at the time began operations.
From check-in to boarding, all travel processes for passengers were combined under one roof for the first time. At the same time, the close connection between various modes of transport began: the underground regional train station connected the airport to the Deutsche Bahn network. "The opening of Terminal 1 marked the beginning of a new era at the airport," says the CEO of the airport operator Fraport, Stefan Schulte, on the occasion of the anniversary. "Larger aircraft, short transfer times, an automatic baggage handling system that is unique in the world and an infrastructure that was state-of-the-art for the time ensured the future viability of the airport as the most important German air traffic hub. Together with our partners, we have continuously developed the airport over the past 50 years.”
The planning for what was then known as “Terminal Mitte” had already begun in the 1950s. Up to 2.500 people worked on the major project during the seven-year construction period. The investment costs for the terminal facilities and the train station were around one billion Deutschmarks. The heart of the terminal was and is the baggage handling and sorting system, which since it was commissioned in 1974 has ensured that a transfer time of 45 minutes is possible. “The planning shows enormous foresight: The opening of the regional train station was the starting point for the successful intermodal connection. In the beginning, 100 trains a day went to the airport, today there are over 500 trains at the regional and long-distance stations. When it comes to intermodality, we are still pioneers today, no other airport in Germany is better connected to the rail network," explains Schulte.
The terminal was designed for around 30 million passengers per year when it opened. Where around 1972 million passengers were counted in 12, the airport broke the 1992 million mark for the first time in 30. In 2019, the busiest year to date, more than 70 million passengers flew via FRA, of which over 80 percent departed from Terminal 1. Since then, Fraport has invested a total of around 4,5 billion euros in the ongoing expansion and modernization of the central airport building.