If you’ve ever wanted to peek behind the metaphorical curtain and take a look at aircraft being made, taking an Airbus or Boeing factory tour is a great opportunity to do so. A tour is available at their facilities in Hamburg and this will be a ‘trip report’ of sorts, for those who might be interested in one day doing the same visit.
First off, I need to say that the photos shown in this article within the factory and assembly line are not my own. In fact, the tour has a strict no-photo policy and anyone violating this policy will be escorted out, off of the tour. However, having just had the experience, I’ve sourced images that provide perspectives that tourists would, in fact, get from going on the tour.
Signing-up and getting there
Unlike Boeing’s tour, Airbus outsources the management of the tour to another company called Globetrotter. You can register and pre-pay for your tour on their website. Their online system will let you know how many spaces are left per tour, which is useful if you want to try and find a smaller group.
The tour is at Airbus’ facilities outside Hamburg. More specifically, it’s just outside the town of Finkenwerder. As listed on the website, check-in for the tour takes place at the “Airbus Periport”, to the left of the main entrance “East gate”. On Google Maps you can find the precise point by searching “Kreetslag 7, 21129 Hamburg”.
I got to the tour’s meeting point by public transport. Depending on where you are coming from, you’ll either have to take a train or ferry in combination with a bus. Thankfully it’s all covered by a single ticket.
I would recommend including the 62 ferry as part of your journey if possible. It’s a nice change from a city bus, and you get some nice views from the river. For most people, the last portion of the journey to get there is the 150 bus. The bus will flash AIRBUS in big letters when its time to get off.
Getting off the 150 bus, its a short one minute walk over to the check-in point. You’ll see the yellow Globetrotter sign on the left side of the building – make your way there. If you’re there a little early – no worries. They have a waiting room with a bunch of chairs. You can also waste some time looking at various Airbus model aircraft and key chains for purchase. There’s also a general store next door.
Once it’s time to check-in, you’ll walk yourself from the waiting room to the tour office. One person will handle the check-in process. You’ll need a valid passport for this, so don’t forget to bring it! Upon check-in you’ll be given an audio receiver to wear around your neck and an earpiece. This is to allow you to hear the tour guide even from a distance – especially useful with a large group.
The tour: the narrowbody portion
My tour was given by a former employer and engineer at Airbus. This made him extremely knowledgeable on pretty much everything. Hopefully, this is the norm with tours here.
The tour begins by boarding a bus and heading to a building where guests are seated to watch a video. The video gives tourists a brief overview of Airbus and the general idea of how things work with the various facilities scattered across Europe. Here you’ll understand what each facility does – whether its in Broughton (UK), Getafe (Spain), Toulouse (France) or elsewhere and how it fits within the bigger picture.
Following the video, you’ll board the bus again and head over to a hangar where you’ll see one of the A320-family assembly lines. The first photo in this article (and featured image) gives an idea of how close guests will be to the aircraft. The photo we displayed was taken during a royal visit… so in a sense, you’ll get ‘the royal treatment’ on the tour!
As my particular tour consisted of myself and two other guests, we had the time to check out another assembly facility. This time, rather than standing at ground level, we were above the aircraft – getting a nice overview of the process.
The tour: moving on to the widebodies
Following this, you’ll get to see some of the widebody operations that take place at Hamburg. We got to see a line of A330s being put together as well as part of an A350. This is a build-up to the finale of the tour…
The last part of the tour takes us to the A380s getting their cabins installed. To see the massive superjumbo half-complete with an army of technicians at work is quite awe-inspiring. At the same time, you might see an Airbus A320 parked in the shadow of the A380 being worked on as well. It definitely provides a great sense of juxtaposition.
The image above is obviously dated as British Airways received its A380s long ago. On this tour, the two A380s inside the hangar were unsurprisingly Emirates aircraft. We also got to see ANAs third and final A380 (in orange) parked outside.
Another ‘rare’ site that we tourists got to see was an Airbus ship docked at the port. As I understand, it is one of three ships used to transport sections of aircraft to its other facilities in Mobile Alabama, and Tianjin China.
Another thing to note about the tour is that there was a distinct effort in highlighting the company’s sustainability initiatives all along the way. Furthermore, it ended with an invitation to check out job opportunities at the company which isn’t something you always experience on a tour.
Having taken the Boeing Factory Tour in 2018, I believe the Airbus Hamburg tour is a much better experience. In fact, it is roughly one hour longer than what Boeing offers. You also get much closer to the aircraft in Hamburg.
To conclude, this tour is absolutely worth 24 euros and I would highly recommend it!
Have you ever taken an Airbus or Boeing factory tour? Let us know if your experience was as good by leaving a comment!