Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport finally opens after a decade of delays

Nov 2, 2020

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Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport (BER) has finally opened after nearly a decade of delays. Named after former West Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt, the new airport, which began construction in 2006 was plagued by financial problems, bureaucratic delays and construction flaws.

The project went 4 billion euros over budget and faces growing uncertainty, with the global pandemic greatly reducing demand for travel. However, with two of Berlin’s three existing airports closing and nearly 300 million euros in government aid, there is hope that the new facility will weather the pandemic.

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History

Plans for a new airport in Berlin began shortly after Germany’s reunification in 1989. However, it wasn’t until 2006 when construction began on the site of Shoenefeld Airport, which had once been dubbed the worst airport in the world and officially closed 25 October 2020.

The new Brandenburg airport was set to open in 2011, with Chancellor Angela Merkel making an appearance. However, plans were cancelled when inspectors found major construction flaws. The airport’s opening was pushed back three years while problems were addressed and debt accumulated. After another failed opening in 2016, the inauguration was scrapped indefinitely while developers attempted to get the project under control.

With reports of incompetence and corruption abounding, the mayor of Berlin resigned over the project, calling it his “biggest failure.” When the doors finally opened on Saturday, staff were greeted by environmental protestors dressed like penguins rather than hordes of eager travellers.

In some ways, the lower demand for travel could be a good thing for an airport plagued by infrastructure issues. Even the inaugural landing didn’t go as planned, with Lufthansa and EasyJet scuttling a joint landing due to poor visibility.

Operating at half capacity

Brandenburg’s Airport is four times the size of Tegel International, which is closing on 8 November. However, the airport is still not operating at full capacity since only one terminal is operating while the second remains closed due to the pandemic. The facility is currently set up for domestic flights, with plans in the works to make room for jumbo jets like the A380. With the pandemic limiting the need for an additional terminal, authorities are in no rush to open it.

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