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Ach! Was ist denn los?
Not great news this month as Berlin-Brandenburg Airport is rumored to throw out yet another delay on top of the many they've already delivered. As it stands, BER is scheduled to debut in late October 2013, but some news of late may throw that date into the trash pile with the other four opening dates they've previously teased.
The fresh estimate isGott im Himmelsometime in 2014 after fire safety experts recently reported more problems with the facility’s security system. On top of this bad news, already the airport finds itself on the receiving end of legal action from Air Berlin, who claim damages to their business on account of the massive delays. It's beyond a waiting game now; the situation has gotten ugly.
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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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Ugh—we’ve got more bad news when it comes to the scheduled arrival of Berlin’s new airport. In case you haven’t been following the latest, we’ll fill you in. The new airport in Berlin was set to replace the old ones back earlier this month, but a revised grand opening date for Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport is now set for next March. It's all kind of embarrassing for Germany.
The latest bad news out of the airport is more of a blow to folks like us, because Boingo has been announced as the WiFi access provider in and around the terminal. That’s not the best news, because anytime we hear the word Boingo we immediately are reminded of the need to enter in some credit card digits in order to obtain access. In a few words: BER will not have free WiFi. Maybe it’s just us, but you’d think that in 2013 free terminal-wide WiFi would be pretty much a standard airport amenity.
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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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After a challenging year for some of the founding members of the Oneworld alliance, 2012 will surely be brighter. In 2011, the alliance saw American Airlines file for bankruptcy and Qantas' chief grounding the entire network to challenge labor disputes, plus Iberia closing out the year with rounds of employee strikes.
There were some shining stars, however, with the finalization of International Airline Group (the conglomerate that combines British Airways and Iberia), Cathay Pacific offering overhauled cabins and in-flight amenities, and Japan Airlines emerging from bankruptcy stronger and more stable.
As we get going with 2012, we can't help but notice the huge changes happening amongst these airline buddies. Oneworld is the world's smallest of the major airline alliances, yet consistently hits the high marks in passenger ratings. With the addition of 3 new carriers, Oneworld will gain a fighting chance to excel in years to come. Here's what's happening meanwhile:
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MMmm...new airport. Do you know that Berlin has three airports? You're most likely to fly into Tegel, or Schoenefeld if you're on a low-cost European airline, and their modernist Tempelhof one is now just an event space. But come October 2011, a fourth airport will be added into the mix: Berlin-Brandenburg International (BER).
BER is currently under construction, but helping it to move along quickly is the fact that it'll use some of Schoenefeld's infrastructure (it's basically a new airport next to Schoenefeld). Additionally, Tegel Airport wants to close by 2012. Although BER will serve as the main airport in Berlin from its opening, it will only end up with two runways at its completion (one of the runways will be an existing one of Schoenefeld's). It'll only have ten boarding gates, but at least one will be equipped to handle the hot new airplane in town: the Airbus A380. BER seeks to battle it out with Munich airport for the title of Germany's second-best airport, after the behemoth that is Frankfurt am Main International.
A video, after the jump