The Animal Lounge at Frankfurt International Airport is the largest animal airport facility in the world, handling everything from ornamental fish to polar bears. The world’s most advanced animal station combines the handling, coordination, and necessary veterinary services all strategically based at one facility. Frankfurt Airport is an “airport of first entry” for importing animals to the European Union by air. The Animal Lounge is accessed by all air carriers.
Operated by German carrier Lufthansa, animals range from domestic pets to exotic species relocating to a zoos and animal reserves, states Axel Heitman, director of the Animal Lounge. Interestingly enough, a majority of animals usually travel in the belly of passenger planes, but Lufthansa is equipped with a fleet of 18 freight aircraft which can accommodate a variety of animal sizes even a hippopotamuses or crocodiles.
In fact, each year, more than 2,000 horses pass through and 15,000 dogs and cats have short stays in the building. More than 100 million animals jetted in and out of Frankfurt’s Animal Lounge last year including 2000 horses, 14,000 cats and dogs, 80 million ornamental fish and 300 tons of worms.
The 3,750-square meter facility opened its doors in 2008 and is equipped with non-slip floors and climate-controlled chambers to help make an animal’s stay as comfortable as possible. “It’s a lounge just like the lounges we have for passengers. You stay here for a few hours and relax and then connect to another flight. Only there are no cushions,” said Marco Klapper, project manager for the Animal Lounge.
A team of trained vets and qualified animal handlers are also on hand round the clock to monitor them upon arrival. There are also surveillance cameras. The animal lounge is a large warehouse type facility cleaned twice daily. The lounge has an area with black lights for veterinarians to examine fish, and an oxygen supply for the fish in case they need a refresher. There is a quiet area reserved for cats so they don’t get more stressed by subjection to barking dogs.
Lufthansa’s Animal Lounge is a source of inspiration. New York’s Kennedy International Airport expects to open an animal shipping facility late in 2015. It is calling the project “Ark” and will have webcams and GPS shipment tracking for each pet. For now, Lufthansa’s Animal Hub remains the five star service for four paws.