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Cool Your Jets: Berlin's New Airport Stays Empty for Now

Where: Berlin, Germany
August 20, 2012 at 1:04 PM | by | ()

Berlin has four airports. There's Tempelhof—the Reich-built property that closed in 2008 after 85 years—now only used for special events. There's Tegel—still functioning, though way over capacity. There's Schönefeld, also functioning but also over capacity. And finally there's Brandenburg, an extension of Schönefeld which will eventually open to become a mega-airport with the appealing code of BER.

Believe it or not, two out of those four airports are effectively ghost airports, halls empty of travelers and baggage claims dusty, though the dust at Brandenburg is from construction. While Tempelhof has closed the book on its life, Brandenburg is only just writing its own preface, and trying again and again to open for the first time. Let's review the saga of what's become a German national embarrassment:

October 30, 2011. That was the date Berlin was supposed to debut the state-of-the-art airport. Its full name is Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (BER). Learning that name is about as far as the public got with it, since a delay pushed everything back until...

June 3, 2012. This was it. June 3rd would be the big debut and the four carriers looking to use BER as a hub—Germanwings, Germania, Air Berlin and Lufthansa—had scheduled their summer around it. It was also the date Berlin's current airport, Tegel (TXL), was supposed to close and shift operations to BER. Then something very un-Germanic occurred: a second massive delay.

August, 2012. This was the month the fire protection problems—the cause of the June delay—were supposed to be resolved and, again, BER cleared to open. At this point, we spoke with Sabine Teller, Senior Manager of Public Relations for Air Berlin, who confirmed that though Air Berlin will fly from Berlin-Tegel (TXL) up to the opening of BER, that date "we don’t know just now.” So is it so surprising another delay followed?

March 17, 2012. This was the date the current delays were supposed to be resolved, giving the new airport a fresh opening date well in advance of prime summer travel. It was far enough away to seem feasible, but it was recently widely publicized that even March is too ambitious now.

Who knows, 2013? 2014? According to the Berliner Morgenpost, the construction of BER is now going over budget by a half billion Euros, from 4.277 billion Euros to 4.737 billion Euros. Ouch, not to mention the damage the delays are doing to the business of Air Berlin, who banked on offering more lucrative routes from the new airport. A new decision is now due on September 14, 2012 to name a fourth potential opening date.

In short, don't make any big plans for Berlin travel if you're hoping to fly into a shiny new airport in the next year. Cool your jets, literally.

[Photo: Wikimedia]

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