After years (and years) of embarrassing delays, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport finally opened last weekend!
The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (airport code “BER”), nicknamed “Willy Brandt”, was originally due to open in June 2012. But the construction of the airport has been plagued by mismanagement, scandals, fraud and cost blowouts which led the project to cost around 10x the original estimted price.
The sheer scale of incompetence is astonishing. The original design included barely any shops, did not have separate areas for Schengen Area and non-Schengen flights, and was far too small. So the politicians overseeing the construction ordered the plans to be changed after building had begun. Berlin politicians also changed the plan well into construction so the airport would have gates capable of handling A380s – even though no airline had any intention to fly A380s to Berlin and Lufthansa had explicitedly stated they wouldn’t. And then there were the basic problems with the fire safety system…
Radio Spaetkauf has put together an informative and entertaining podcast in English called “How to f#€k up an airport” which details the many failings at Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Radio Spaetkauf recently released a brand new podcast episode where they visited the new airport and explained why it’s still in serious financial trouble.
There’s even a German board game based around the airport construction where the aim is to waste as much taxpayer money as possible.
Nonetheless, the airport is now finally cleared for takeoff and welcomed its first flights over the weekend! The first arrivals were Airbus A320s from Lufthansa and Easyjet on 31 October 2020, which landed on parralel runways at roughly the same time. The first passenger flight – an easyJet plane from Fuerteventura, arrived later that day. The first passenger departure was an easyJet flight to London Gatwick early the following morning.
Photos of the occasion are available on Berlin Airports website.
Schönefeld rebranded, Tegel closing
Until now, Berlin has had two operational airports – Schönefeld (SXF) and Tegel (TXL). Schönefeld’s airport terminal is physically located on the other side of the new airport’s runway, and in fact Schönefeld Airport has been using BER’s runways and Air Traffic Control tower for years already. Schönefeld, one of the world’s ugliest airports and a hangover from East Germany’s communist past, will continue to be used by low-cost carriers into the future – but has now been rebranded as BER Terminal 5. It’s connected to the main T1 terminal by trains, which you’ll need to buy a ticket to use.
Another new low-cost terminal, T2, has been built near T1.
Tegel Airport, which until now was Berlin’s main airport, is closing on 8 November 2020. The heritage-listed, hexagonal-shaped terminal building will remain but will be converted into an office park and university campus. Airlines are progressively moving their flights from TXL to the new airport over the coming week.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport is located much further from the city centre than Tegel Airport, but is relatively well-connected with regular train services.
Lounges at Berlin Brandenburg Airport
There are currently four main lounges open at Berlin’s new Brandbenburg Airport.
“Lounge TEGEL” is located on the first floor, in the Schengen departures area near gates B17/B18 at the main north pier. The larger “Lounge TEMPELHOF” (named after Berlin’s other former airport which is now a public park), which has a better view over the airfield, is located on the first floor of the south pier, near gate A20. Lounge TEMPELHOF is also in the departure area for Schengen flights, but has an additional exit into the non-Schengen area. These lounges are both accessible to Priority Pass members.
Lufthansa is also operating two lounges at BER. The Lufthansa Business Lounge and Lufthansa Senator Lounge are both located near gates B19/20 in the Schengen departures area on the north pier of Terminal 1. To enter these lounges, you would need to be flying Business class or have Star Alliance Gold status, and be travelling with Lufthansa or another Star Alliance airline.
There is also a VIP “Zeitgeist Lounge”, but this is extremely expensive (prices start at ~AUD580 for 3 hours) and not intended for everyday travellers. There are plans to build an additional lounge in Terminal 3 when it is built in the future, which would be called “Lounge SCHÖNEFELD”.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: The BER debacle continues