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Frankfurt Airport in numbers

updated 5:10 AM EDT, Fri September 14, 2012
Researcher: Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Designed and Built by The Infographics Agency
  • The Gateway goes behind the scenes at Frankfurt Airport
  • It claims to serve more international destinations than any other airport in the world
  • It is a major logistical hub, handling more than 2 million tons of cargo each year
  • Frankfurt Airport's catering staff produce 100,000 meals a day

Each week The Gateway goes behind the scenes of the world's major transport hubs, revealing the logistics that keep goods and people moving. This month, the show takes a look at Frankfurt Airport, in Germany.

Frankfurt, Germany (CNN) -- Serving Germany's financial capital, Frankfurt Airport is one of the world's busiest international gateways.

With 56 million passengers passing through last year, it's the third busiest airport in Europe and claims to serve more international destinations than any other airport in the world. But rather than just catering to holiday makers, Frankfurt is a major logistical hub.

Most of its passengers are business travelers and more than half of all passengers are there to transfer between flights. It handles more than 2 million tons of cargo each year, as well as 100 million animals. And more than 18,000 items of baggage travel along its 73 kilometers of conveyor belts every hour.

See also: Record-breaking airports

Restaurant food on an industrial scale

"What is unique about Frankfurt is the amount of traffic," Klaus Wehle, supervisor at Frankfurt control tower, told CNN's Becky Anderson.

He added: "We have four runways, we have two terminals, divided in different parts, so we have a lot of taxiing aircraft, which is very complex.

Frankfurt Airport: A strategic hub

"Frankfurt is a transfer hub so we have several peak hours a day -- inbound peaks, outbound peaks -- so punctuality is a big issue here."

The airport was also considered the first to have infrastructure compatible with the colossal Airbus A380 -- the biggest passenger aircraft flying today.

It can take up to 50 people to handle the turnaround of an A380 and the double-deck plane presents considerable challenges for the airport's staff. It takes about an hour to refuel an A380, which can guzzle up to about 320,000 liters of fuel -- enough to fill the tanks of some 6,000 cars.

And a single A380 can require up to 1,200 in-flight meals -- prepped and cooked by the airport's chefs. Feeding Frankfurt Airport and its airlines is no small task. International chefs work around the clock to dish out an average of 100,000 meals a day -- enough to feed the population of a small city.

While most meals for economy class are deep frozen, for business and first-class passengers food is freshly prepared on the day. But preparing food for consumption in the air presents unique problems -- not least that passengers' taste buds don't function as well at altitude.

Maik Herodek, section manager of LSG Skychefs, a catering company at Frankfurt Airport, says its hard to create plane food that isn't plain. "The challenge is to make good food ... because if you fly the air is dry, and you can't taste the salt," he said. "So you have to work with more herbs or other spices."

And his secret to pleasing fussy airline passengers? "All the ingredients are very fresh," he said.

"We check the temperature, we check the freshness, we check everything because it must be the freshest you get, because on the airplane, you can't say 'oh sorry, tell the chef I want another one.' There's just one chance to deliver good food on a plane."

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