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Berlin has four airports. There's Tempelhofthe Reich-built property that closed in 2008 after 85 yearsnow only used for special events. There's Tegelstill 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 hubGermanwings, Germania, Air Berlin and Lufthansahad 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.
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It’s one drama after another for the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (aka Willy Brandt/BER). Originally scheduled to open last year, then pushed to June 3rd, the airport’s operating company issued a stunning statement Tuesday that fire-protection problems will now delay the opening until August.
The news has caused an uproar from government officials like Brandenburg’s minister-president, who’s said he’s “really angry”. Now Germany’s largest airlines Air Berlin and Lufthansa are scrambling to redirect flights back to Berlin-Tegel and Schönefeld airports until further notice. This presents huge problem as both are pre-Cold War airports that were scheduled to shut down on June 2nd.
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If you're planning on flying into or out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle or Paris-Orly airports today, you might want to be extra aware of your flight's status on FlightStats and have your airline's contact number at hand, as French airport workers have gone on strike over retirement age.
Tweeting live from the front linesfrom on a delayed plane at CDGis musician Ted Leo, of the band Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. First, his flight returned to the gate before takeoff with an equipment issue, and just as that was fixed and they were all set to leave for the US, the airport workers' strike began. His latest tweet: "We've been disembarked aaaaaaand it looks like the entire airport's shutting down." Now, CDG is delaying and canceling flights on account of the strike, and other Paris-bound flights from international airports should also be affected.
Now, for Berlin's similar issues...
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Of all the ways that an airport can get shut down these days - over-affectionate paramours, genuine security threats, and so on - what just happened at Berlin's Tegel has to be among the strangest. Local media is reporting that hundreds of passengers were evacuated and all flights suspended from Germany's main international airport, after a World War II-era bomb was uncovered by construction workers.
The unexploded British bomb is estimated to have weighed a quarter ton, and specialists had to be called in from the Berlin police department to defuse it. In the meantime German authorities shut down the entire airport, going so far as to close local road access. After a couple hours the bomb was successfully defused and the airport reopened. Final tally for the afternoon: 40 to 50 flights disrupted, dozens of planes diverted to nearby Schoenefeld airport, and what we can only imagine was a bevy of frustrated passengers.
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We safely arrived early this morning to Berlin's Tegel airport via Delta's non-stop flight 78 from New York-JFK, an experience we'd rather not repeat due to a decrepit terminal, mass confusion at the gate, and the horribly cramped seats of an older plane. And remember that jazz about Delta being tops in terms of tarmac waits? They aren't kidding; we had read through our guidebook before even hitting the skies.
Beyond the terminal's hot pretzel stand and the vending machine stocked with Ritter Sport chocolate and Haribo Gummi-Bären, we spotted this carry-on luggage measuring rack and its image of a perky Air Berlin representative.
Is this frisky-looking lass the German version of Deltalina? Sadly we didn't book the Air Berlin direct from JFK, but next time we just might have to if she promises to help us latch the overhead bins.
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A fire engulfed an wooden office building at Berlin-Tegel Airport overnight, interrupting air traffic for about 30 minutes while more than 100 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.
The hexagonal passenger terminal building at the city's busiest airport was undamaged, and two Lufthansa and two Austrian Airlines flights were diverted because of thick smoke rising over the runways. Passengers on those planes touched down at Schoenefeld, in the south of Berlin, which will be converted into Berlin-Brandenburg International in 2011. Berlin's third airport, Tempelhof, wouldn't have been an alternative; it was shuttered on October 31.
Until last night, the burned building was occasionally used by the military and visiting VIPs; it was also set up as a quarantine office but never saw any action in that capacity.