In the boom-time Germany of the late seventies, hanging out at Frankfurt-am-Main—the orderly, star-shaped air traffic hub with its cinemas, restaurants and bookshops—was always a pleasurable way to 'time-pass' the wait for a flight. A couple of weeks ago, the chaos at Frankfurt Main was unbelievable. Gone is the smooth flow of passenger traffic and Germany's trademark perfectionism. The expanded airport's new, supposedly modish, trans-Atlantic look seems designed more to hamper than help the traveller. Most of the old shutterboards, which would set you day-dreaming everytime they fluttered their geographical scrabble of faraway places, are on their way out. It's 'digital flight information monitors' today—but their location is a well-kept secret. Signs are minimalist and misleading, while no travolators, escalators and hardly any lifts in the new terminals mean interminably long trudges by foot.
Longhaul flights always land or leave from the farthest end (arrival: gate A 250, connecting in 10 minutes from gate Z 250; distance: a few miles; location: unknown, except to flight monitors; location of monitors: unknown; airline staff: unavailable for another mile or so). Four immigration counters process EU citizens (low on population) and only two attend to the rest of us, richly reproductive, non-EU world. 'Cattle-class' catering aboard flights to and from India features tired bhindi and German 'channa masala'—to give us our daily fix of both, without which we'd never survive seven flight-hours.