While the first planes are due to land on 31 October, the first scheduled departures from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), also known as Willy Brandt Airport, are expected on 1 November 2020.
The news of the October 2020 opening date has been met by skepticism from almost everybody. Nonetheless, the airport authority has made a firm commitment to airlines that the October 2020 opening date will really happen this time.
The Berlin Brandenburg Airport project has been a comedy of errors
The airport, which was originally scheduled to open in March 2011, has been plagued by construction and design problems, as well as mismanagement and corruption.
Not only this, but the airport authority kept changing the design well after construction had commenced. This was done because the original airport design – which the board had approved – included almost no shops, did not take into account the need for separated Schengen and non-Schengen areas, and did not include any Airbus A380 gates, among other omissions. (Never mind the fact that no airline has said they plan to operate any A380s to Berlin… in fact, German airline Lufthansa has specifically stated that they will not. Meanwhile the world’s largest A380 operator, Emirates, does not even have the rights to fly to Berlin.)
In the meantime, the airline that was to be the airport’s largest operator and use Berlin Brandenburg Airport as a hub, Airberlin, already went out of business in 2017. Nonetheless, passenger numbers in Berlin continue rising and the new, larger airport remains a necessary priority.
The scheduled opening date has already been pushed back so many times that the airport authority, until yesterday, had given up announcing an expected opening date.
The list of faults with this airport is so long that the entire Berlin Brandenburg Airport construction project has become a laughing stock in Germany. In one example, the airport had placed a passport control booth immediately at the foot of an escalator. There were also very serious safety concerns, including a fire safety system that relied on minimum-wage employees scattered throughout the airport with walkie-talkies to report fires and manually shut fire doors. In addition, the smoke extraction system could have caused the floor of the airport to melt. The person that had designed this system, it turns out, was not even a qualified engineer.
There is even now a board game in Germany about the Berlin Brandenburg Airport where the objective is to waste the most taxpayers’ money.
While the delays have been ongoing, the airport has been forced to pay millions in compensation to hotels and other businesses that had been relying on the airport to be operational since 2011. Meanwhile, ghost trains pass through the airport train station every night to keep the air moving and prevent mould from forming inside the tunnels.
Berlin’s Tegel Airport to close
Despite a 2017 referendum in which 56.1% of Berliners voted to keep Tegel Airport (TXL) open, the plan remains that Berlin’s current main airport will close around a week after BER becomes fully operational. That would see Berlin Tegel Airport being closed around the beginning of November 2020.
It is still not clear whether this will happen, however Tegel Airport is now in a rather dire state after operating well beyond its designed capacity for years.
Berlin’s other existing airport, Schönefeld (SXF) will remain open indefinitely to relieve pressure on BER – which will already be operating at close to capacity when it opens. Schönefeld and Berlin Brandenburg Airports are located very close to each other and share the same runways and air traffic control tower facilities.
Will the October 31 2020 deadline really be met? At this point, nobody knows…
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: The BER debacle continues