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Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Coordinates: 52°22′00″N 013°30′12″E / 52.36667°N 13.50333°E / 52.36667; 13.50333
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Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg
Summary
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorFlughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH
ServesBerlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region
LocationSchönefeld, Brandenburg
Opened31 October 2020; 3 years ago (2020-10-31)[1][2]
Operating base for
Elevation AMSL48 m / 157 ft
Coordinates52°22′00″N 013°30′12″E / 52.36667°N 13.50333°E / 52.36667; 13.50333
Websiteber.berlin-airport.de
Maps
BER/EDDB is located in Germany
BER/EDDB
BER/EDDB
Location at the Berlin-Brandenburg border
BER/EDDB is located in Europe
BER/EDDB
BER/EDDB
BER/EDDB (Europe)
Map
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07L/25R 3,600 11,811 Asphalt
07R/25L 4,000 13,123 Concrete
Statistics (2023)
Passenger volume23,071,865 Increase +16,3%
Aircraft movements00,176,649 Increase +7,5%
Cargo (metric tons)00,034,038 Increase +7,0%
Sources: [3][4]

Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (German: Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg „Willy Brandt“), (IATA: BER, ICAO: EDDB), (German pronunciation: [beːʔeːˈʔɛɐ̯] ) is an international airport in Schönefeld, just south of the German capital and state of Berlin, in the state of Brandenburg.[5] Named after the former West Berlin mayor and West German chancellor Willy Brandt, it is located 18 kilometres (11 mi) south-east of the city centre and serves as a base for Eurowings, easyJet and Ryanair. It mostly has flights to European metropolitan and leisure destinations as well as a number of intercontinental services.

The new airport replaced Tempelhof, Schönefeld, and Tegel airports, and became the single commercial airport serving Berlin and the surrounding State of Brandenburg, an area with 6 million inhabitants. With projected annual passenger numbers of around 34 million,[6][7] Berlin Brandenburg Airport has become the third busiest airport in Germany, surpassing Düsseldorf Airport and making it one of the fifteen busiest in Europe.

At the time of opening, the airport had a theoretical capacity of 46 million passengers per year.[8] Terminal 1 accounts for 28 million of this; Terminal 2, which did not open until 24 March 2022, having been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, accounts for 6 million; and Terminal 5, the terminal buildings of the former Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, accounts for another 12 million. Planned further expansion would bring the airport's total annual capacity to 58 million passengers by 2035.[9]

The airport was originally planned to open in October 2011, five years after starting construction in 2006. The project encountered successive delays due to poor construction planning, execution, management, and corruption. Berlin Brandenburg Airport finally received its operational license in May 2020,[2] and opened for commercial traffic on 31 October 2020, 14 years after construction started and 29 years after official planning was begun.[1] Schönefeld's refurbished passenger facilities were incorporated as Terminal 5 on 25 October 2020[10][11][12] while all other airlines completed the transition from Tegel to Berlin Brandenburg Airport by 8 November 2020.[13]

History[edit]

Plans for a new Berlin Airport[edit]

A view of the apron of Berlin Schönefeld Airport (1990)
Map showing the infrastructure of the Schönefeld area and the relationship between the new and old airports

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and following German reunification in 1990, Berlin once again became the German federal capital; leaders made plans to recognise the city's increased importance by constructing a large commercial airport. The existing airports, Tegel Airport, Schönefeld Airport and Tempelhof Airport, were ageing and becoming increasingly congested with rising passenger numbers. To ensure the economic viability of the project, they pursued the single airport concept: the new airport would become the sole commercial airport for Berlin and Brandenburg. They planned to close Tegel, Schönefeld and Tempelhof upon opening the new airport, then ban commercial aviation from any other airport in Brandenburg.

On 2 May 1991, the Berlin Brandenburg Flughafen Holding GmbH (BBF) was founded, owned by the states of Berlin and Brandenburg (37% each) and the Federal Republic of Germany (the remaining 26%). Eberhard Diepgen, Mayor of Berlin, became the first chairman of the supervisory board. The holding company announced on 20 June 1993 that Sperenberg Airfield, Jüterbog Airfield and the area south of Schönefeld Airport, where the evaluation of the locations Sperenberg, Jüterbog East, Jüterbog West, Tietzow, Michelsdorf, Borkheide and Schönefeld South was carried out according to five criteria with different weighting. Each site was advocated by various factions in the ensuing political discussion.[14] With regard to land-use planning and noise pollution, rural Sperenberg and Jüterbog were considered more suitable for construction of a large airport. Economic considerations favoured an airport located near the city centre, with existing road and rail links (as is the case with Schönefeld).[14][15]

On 28 May 1996, Mayor Diepgen, Minister-President of Brandenburg Manfred Stolpe and Federal Minister for Transport Matthias Wissmann committed to Schönefeld as the site for the new airport. This so-called consensus decision was later affirmed by the respective state legislatures.[16] The new airport would use some infrastructure, such as a runway, from the existing Schönefeld Airport.

Failed privatisation[edit]

Originally, BBF anticipated that the new airport would be owned and operated by a private investor. They called for proposals, which led to two bidding consortia emerging as serious contenders. One was led by Hochtief through its Hochtief Airport subsidiary and included ABB, Fraport and Bankengesellschaft Berlin as partners. The other consortium comprised IVG, Flughafen Wien AG, Dorsch-Consult, Commerzbank and Caisse des Dépôts. On 19 September 1998, BBF announced that the Hochtief consortium were the successful bidder. This saw them granted exclusive authority to negotiate the terms and conditions for an acquisition of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport holding and the construction and operation of the new airport for 50 years.[17]

On 31 March 1999, BBF officially commissioned Hochtief and its partners to construct the new airport, causing IVG to file a lawsuit. The Brandenburg Oberlandesgericht acknowledged the concerns voiced by IVG. In its review, it found that in certain points the assessment of the applications had been biased towards Hochtief. This led to annulment of the contract award on 3 August of that year.[18]

Hochtief Airport and IVG teamed up and created a plan for a joint bid on 10 November 2000 in an attempt to receive the contract to construct and operate the new airport.[19] At the time BBF hoped that the planning approval could be completed in 2002, with the tentative opening in 2007.[20]

When Hochtief/IVG submitted its bid in February 2002, the BBF board consisted of Manfred Stolpe, who would become Federal Minister of Transportation; Klaus Wowereit, who replaced Eberhard Diepgen as Mayor of Berlin and chair of the board; and Matthias Platzeck, who replaced Stolpe as Minister-President of Brandenburg. The board determined that the proposal would not be practical and voted 22 May 2003 to scrap the privatisation plan.[21] Hochtief and IVG received approximately €50 million compensation for their planning effort.

Public ownership and construction permit[edit]

The new Berlin airport would be planned, owned and operated by BBF Holding. Shortly afterwards BBF Holding became Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH (FBB) and remained under the ownership of Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government. On 13 August 2004, the Brandenburg state ministry for infrastructure and regional policy granted approval for the development of Schönefeld Airport into the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport.[22]

A legal battle ensued, as local residents filed lawsuits against the ministry's decision. The dispute ended 16 March 2006, when the Federal Administrative Court of Germany rejected the residents' arguments. The court imposed stipulations on flight operations at the new airport.[23] The construction permit was granted only under the condition that once operational, the number of people living in the approach path would be lower compared to the situation surrounding the three existing airports – Tegel, Schönefeld and Tempelhof.[24] Therefore, it was mandatory for Tegel and Schönefeld to close (Tempelhof was already decommissioned in 2008) once Berlin's air traffic was concentrated at the new airport.[25]

Financing[edit]

By 2009, the construction cost was budgeted at €2.83 billion. FBB raised the financing for the project by a credit raising of €2.4 billion, a bank deposit of €430 million by the FBB partners, and an additional €440 million of equity capital provided by FBB.[26]

During construction, it became clear that the airport's costs would significantly increase as a result of initial underestimates, construction flaws, and increased expenses for soundproofing nearby homes. By 2012, the series of delays in opening was expected to lead to a number of lawsuits against FBB with the now defunct Air Berlin announcing its intentions of such a move.[27]

By late 2012, expenditures for Berlin Brandenburg Airport totalled €4.3 billion, almost twice the originally anticipated figure.[28]

It became clear in November 2015 that the financial concept of the airport was fundamentally flawed. The main purpose of the many stores planned at the airport was to serve passengers who were changing planes, assuming that Berlin would be a big international hub. It was acknowledged in 2015 that competition between the hubs was already too intense. Frankfurt Airport and London Heathrow would resist losing passenger shares without a price war and that few if any airlines would abandon their hubs for Berlin. The only remaining potential airline for operating a hub was Air Berlin, which was in financial difficulties and did not plan to provide long-distance service.[29][30]

German Railways Deutsche Bahn also sued for non-usage of the ghost station below the airport in 2012[31] with the airport having to pay damages.[32][33]

In November 2015, auditors with the Brandenburg Comptroller concluded that financial control executed by Berlin, Brandenburg, and Germany over the airport as owners was insufficient and inefficient.[34] The Comptroller published a 400-page report in February 2016 describing the flawed opening including several construction lapses. This led the BER boss to retaliate publicly against the comptroller on 27 February decrying the release of the numbers.[35]

Soundproofing nearby homes will be €50 million more expensive because of a verdict of the main administrative courts of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg.[36] As of 5 May 2016, the court decided in favour of 25,500 plaintiffs. See also: Federal Administrative Court of Germany. The key directive of the verdict was that rooms must be provided with adequate ventilation if windows are closed for noise, and the airport authority must also determine how air inside the structures can be vented. The airport avoided liability claims against Imtech and other firms involved in the construction of the fire exhaust system.[37]

Financing for the entire airport appeared headed toward bankruptcy in June 2016 when the EU was unwilling to approve a pending request for €2.5 billion bringing the project to €6.9 billion. If the request was denied, the airport authority stated it would be bankrupt by August 2016.[38][39] The EU permitted an additional €2.2 billion on 3 August 2016.[40] A €2.4 billion loan was signed on 13 February 2017 containing €1.1 billion for financing and €1.3 billion to resolve old bad loans. The German federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg guaranteed the debt.[41]

As of 2015, total costs amounted to €5.4 billion.[42][43][44][45][46] Revised plans suggest additional costs amounting to an extra €2.19 billion. As of 3 June 2015, Germany applied for an additional €2.5 billion spending approval from the EU. This is in addition to the previous total of €4.3 billion, bringing total costs to €6.8 billion.[47][48][49] The EU would only permit an additional €2.2 billion, which it did on 3 August 2016.[50][51][40] Although the airport has yet to open officials are planning a possible third runway for approximately €1 billion and other new projects such as an additional terminal, expanded baggage system and another freight facility. The total additional spending would amount to €3.2 billion.[52] The board warned of a further rise in costs because the airport will not open before 2017. The current time-cost frame is limited to 2016;[53] the estimated cost of €6.9 billion is current as of May 2016.[54] The airport company reportedly made the assurance to the European Investment Bank that the airport will open in September 2019.[55] Forecasts estimate the airport will not be ready to open until 2020. This required €500 million refinancing to bridge the gap between 2019 and 2020.[56] The airport published a need for another billion euros up until 2020. Thus the three years of work from 2018 onwards will cost at least €900 million.[57] The total cost of the airport will top €6.5 billion.[58][59]

As of 13 January 2018, the company requested an additional €2.8 billion for extensions until 2030.[60] Taking that into account, the total cost comes to €9.4 billion,[61][62] with a total of €10.3 billion if the €900 million in overhead costs previously mentioned are factored in. An economical estimate determined the costs for the overheads at a conservative figure of €770 million.[63] The airport is planning to borrow €400 million.[64] Another issue arose when it became public that the airport head earns an annual salary of €500,000.[65] A new loan was granted by the German parliament on 30 June 2018 totalling €132 million. The other two owners, the states of Brandenburg and Berlin, will likely permit their shares of the loan as well, so the loan will total €500 million.[66] The board postponed a decision concerning the loan until the end of August 2018, which leaves the entire finance planning in jeopardy.[67] At the end of August 2018 Berlin's head of finance Matthias Kollatz remarked that the airport may face abrupt bankruptcy on 1 January 2019 if no immediate measures were be taken.[68][69] The financial head resigned from the holding company of Berlin's airports at the end of September 2019.[70] According to projections the airport is in dire need of additional €508 million from 2021 onwards.[71] There seems to be another need for financial support from authorities for the next 2 years as of 29 April 2020 amounting to €1.8 billion.[72] A new study claimed that the net worth of the current building is far lower than the credited €4.866 billion and it is to be settled at €3 billion less.[73] The financial gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to be at €300 million for Tegel and Schönefeld combined, thus the new airport will be in need for financial support for years to come.[74] The annual manager report of 2019 of BER's operating firm was criticised by Linkspartei as extremely short and intransparent.[75] Cash flow concerns amount to a dire need of €1.5 billion as of immediate in 20 June.[76]

On 13 July 2020, prosecutors filed a complaint on suspicion of falsifying the balance sheet. The financial auditors for FBB were the same as for the now insolvent Wirecard company, raising doubts about the validity of the audits.[77] The plan to generate profits starting in 2023/2024 has been overturned by the COVID-19 pandemic according to airport head Engelbert Lütke-Daldrup [de].[78]

There seems to be a demand of €375 million for 2021 to cover current costs for BER, the parent company announced on 9 October 2020. An additional €552 million are needed as a stabilization for missing passengers.[79]

Naming[edit]

The airport is named after Nobel Peace Laureate Willy Brandt, former Mayor of West Berlin and Chancellor of West Germany.

During much of the planning and construction phase the new airport was known as Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, abbreviated BBI. It was then discovered that the IATA code BBI already referred to Biju Patnaik Airport (also known as Bhubaneswar Airport) in India. When the planned opening date of 2 June 2012 drew nearer the FBB launched a marketing campaign introducing the BER branding, reflecting the new airport code.[80]

In 2007, the FBB board decided that Berlin Brandenburg Airport would be given a second name, honouring a person with a distinctive link to the city of Berlin.[81] On 11 December 2009, the decision was made in favour of Willy Brandt.[82] The Nobel Peace laureate of 1971 served as mayor of West Berlin from 1957 to 1966 and as West German chancellor from 1969 to 1974. Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and Minister-President of Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck, both members of the SPD (which Brandt led from 1964 to 1987) led the effort to add Brandt's name to the airport.

Other suggested honorees included Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Albert Einstein and Marlene Dietrich (suggested by members of the Christian Democratic Union), Gustav Stresemann (nominated by the Free Democratic Party), and Otto Lilienthal (advocated by the Green Party).[81]

As a result of the ongoing problems affecting the airport and the continuous negative publicity it got in the German and international press, the Willy Brandt Foundation [de] considered revoking the airport's permission to bear the former chancellor's name. This is due to concerns that an ongoing association might be considered disrespectful towards his legacy. However, no such measure has been taken so far.[83]

Terminals[edit]

Terminal layout including the newly added Terminal 2 as well as the now closed Terminal 5, the former Schönefeld Airport
The main pier of Terminal 1
The main hall of Terminal 1

Terminal 1[edit]

The U-shaped main terminal building of Berlin Brandenburg Airport, named Terminal 1 and consisting of sections A, B (01-25), C and D, was designed by gmp architects. They are the same company that designed the hexagonal Terminal A at Tegel Airport, which opened in 1974.[84] At BER, the terminal sits between the two runways, creating a so-called midfield airport above the underground train station. The terminal has four public levels, designated 0, 1, 2 and 3.

The check-in area is located in the public area at Level 1 and houses 118 counters organised in eight clusters, called check-in isles. Planners anticipate that a significant number of passengers will use the more than 100 self check-in machines that will be installed. Additionally, by May 2015, two extensions had been added to both sides of the main check-in area, containing 12 more check-in counters and eight security lanes each to avoid overcrowding of the main hall.[85]

The airside area will be accessible only to ticketed and screened passengers. Securitas Germany will staff the 35 screening stations. BER is equipped with 25 jet bridges with another 85 aircraft stands on the apron. The boarding and arrival areas are divided into three piers with the main pier 715 metres (2,350 ft) long, and the north and south piers at 350 metres (1,150 ft) each. The main pier contains 16 jet-bridges; all but one have two levels, thus, separating arriving and departing passengers. Level 1 is intended for Schengen Area passengers (gates A01–A20, B01–B20), while Level 2 (gates C01–C19, D01–D17) is for non-Schengen passengers.[86]: 8–10  Eight of the gates can accommodate wide-body aircraft, and one gate has been designed to accommodate the Airbus A380. The apron has sufficient space to allow installation of a dual jetway allowing a quick boarding and disembarking process. A mezzanine (Level Z) at gates A21–22 and B21 allows for additional pre-boarding security checks for high-risk flights to the United States and Israel. Lufthansa operates an airport lounge at the north end of the main pier (gate B20), which will also be open for passengers of the respective alliance partners.[87] An airport-operated lounge is located at the south end of the main pier (gate A20), which is contracted by most of the non-Star Alliance carriers operating from T1. [88]

The south pier was reserved for near-exclusive use of defunct Air Berlin and its Oneworld partners. The south terminal contains nine single-storey jet bridges (gates A30–A38). The north pier features a more minimalist design compared to the other two piers. This is to meet the demands of low-cost carriers and has no jetbridges but boarding gates (B30–45) with direct apron access.

Major operators at Terminal 1 are easyJet, the Lufthansa Group, Aegean Airlines,[89] Air France, KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines and Qatar Airways, amongst others.[90]

Terminal 2[edit]

Plans for a separate low-cost airline terminal costing €200 million were released in March 2016.[91] Construction for the now-named Terminal 2 with section B (30–45) (which was originally constructed as part of Terminal 1) began in 2018 and finished in time in September 2020 to provide further capacity especially for low-cost carriers. Terminal 2 is constructed as a more basic-departures-and-arrivals facility next to the Terminal 1 main building, directly connected with its northern pier to gain more check-in capacity while sharing the same airside areas.[92]

Originally Eurowings was supposed to operate their Berlin base out of Terminal 2.[93] However, the COVID-19 pandemic kept the facility closed, as the capacity was not needed for the foreseeable future.[93] Until then, all flights were handled in Terminal 1.[90]

In November 2021 it had been announced that Terminal 2 was planned to be opened by April 2022 to relieve Terminal 1 as demand for aviation has picked up; thus, Terminal 1 had capacity issues.[94] Terminal 2 was opened on 24 March 2022 with Ryanair as the primary tenant, but in the same year in November Wizz Air has also moved its operations to the new terminal, while the original intended user of the facility Eurowings remained in Terminal 1.[95][96]

Former Terminal 5[edit]

Terminal 5 was made up of the former terminal facilities of old Berlin Schönefeld Airport, which were refurbished and renamed from sections A, B, C, and D to K, L, Q, and M, respectively. In 2019, it was decided to leave the old facilities operational to provide more capacity for the expected passenger volume.[97][98] The old tarmac at Schönefeld, which was refurbished and upgraded, was also used.[99][100] Terminal 5, which was located on the north side of the airport, was connected with the central areas of the airport (Terminals 1 and 2) solely landside by the S-Bahn and public transit buses between the new airport station and the old station that formerly served Schönefeld Airport.[101]

Terminal 5 was scheduled to be operated until the inauguration of the planned Terminal 3 by 2030.[102] In November 2020, it was announced that Terminal 5 would be shut down temporarily for low passenger volume in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all flights relocating to the main Terminal 1.[103] The terminal was closed until further notice on 22 February 2021[104] and was, at the time of closure, not expected to reopen again.[104]

In January 2021, a vaccination center had opened at Terminal 5 to administer COVID-19 vaccines.[105] The vaccination center also remained open after the closure of the terminal to flights.[106] In March 2022, Terminal 5 was converted into a makeshift shelter to house refugees fleeing Ukraine.[107]

In November 2022, the airport authority confirmed that Terminal 5 will remain closed permanently.[108]

Airport overview[edit]

Current and planned layout of the airport, November 2020

Runways[edit]

Berlin Brandenburg Airport has two parallel runways. With a spacing of 1,900 metres (6,200 ft), they allow simultaneous instrument approaches.

The northern runway of BER is the southern runway of the old Schönefeld Airport and has been in use since the 1960s. To adapt it for the new airport, it has been renovated and lengthened from 3,000 to 3,600 metres (9,800 to 12,000 ft).[109] The newly built southern runway has a length of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) and was officially commissioned on 31 May 2012. Blackouts of the runway beacon of the southern runway led to investigations concerning air traffic safety.[110]

BER covers 1,470 hectares (3,632 acres) of land.[111]

Air traffic control[edit]

Air traffic control tower

The Deutsche Flugsicherung is responsible for air traffic control and apron control at Berlin Brandenburg Airport. At 72 metres (240 ft), the control tower is the third highest in Germany (only surpassed by Munich Airport and Düsseldorf Airport). On 25 March 2012, the new tower opened replacing the former facility at Schönefeld.[112] Technical control (power supply and IT) went into operation on 16 March 2018.[113]

Cargo and general aviation[edit]

The initial module of the midfield cargo facilities has a capacity of 60 thousand tonnes (130 million pounds) of cargo per year. With the completion of all planned expansions this could handle up to 600 thousand tonnes (1.3 billion pounds) per year. The general aviation terminal is located in the northern part of BER.

Airport tourism facilities[edit]

The Infotower was a 32-metre (105 ft) observation tower located adjacent to the northern cargo terminal that included a museum and a gift shop. It was closed and demolished in 2016.[114] FBB also offers guided tours of the airport which have grown in popularity since the delayed opening.[115][116]

Aircraft maintenance[edit]

The two large hangars at BER were to be used by Lufthansa and Air Berlin respectively. However, Air Berlin have ceased operations as of 28 October 2017. Both provide enough space for maintenance work on four to five narrow-body aircraft.[117][118]

Government use[edit]

The Executive Transport Wing of the German Defence Ministry (Flugbereitschaft), responsible for government flights, will move large parts of its operations to Berlin Brandenburg Airport from its still-current base at Cologne Bonn Airport near the former West German capital Bonn. It operates a fleet of Bombardier Global Express, Airbus A319, Airbus A321, Airbus A340-300 and Airbus A350-900 VIP-configured aircraft.[119] However Cologne/Bonn will remain the home base of the government fleet for the time being.[120]

The Institute for Federal Real Estate has been planning to construct a terminal on the northern edge of the airport for use by government officials and to welcome foreign dignitaries during state visits. The former Terminal A of Schönefeld Airport was planned to serve as an interim terminal until the new building was to be finished.[121][122] However, in March 2016 the management of the airport terminated the contract with the German government that guaranteed usage of Terminal A of Schönefeld Airport upon the completion of BER for the area to be used for a different purpose. The termination was disputed between airport officials and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.[123]

Mühlenfeld suggested a provisional ramp area west of Schönefeld's main terminal as a replacement solution and construction site for an interim government terminal at the end of February 2016.[124] This then supposed interim government terminal was finished at a cost of around €70 million while the permanent government terminal was planned to begin operations around 2025, at a cost of additionally around €344 million, which left its completion in doubt.[125] In December 2019, the German government cancelled all plans to construct a more representative facility until at least 2030.[126]

The government terminal was inaugurated and put in use on 21 October 2020.[120]

Operating hours[edit]

Noise abatement regulations in the airport's operating licence prohibit takeoffs and landings between 00:00 and 05:00. The Federal Administrative Court of Germany rejected a lawsuit by residents to extend this night flight ban from 23:00 to 06:00 on 13 October 2011. It was also ruled that affected residents should be provided with additional noise insulation.[127]

Major operators[edit]

Until its demise, Air Berlin had planned to move its primary hub from Tegel to Berlin Brandenburg. As a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, Air Berlin required airport facilities capable of meeting the demands of its connecting passengers that Tegel could not provide. However, Air Berlin filed for insolvency on 15 August 2017 and large parts of it were bought by Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, ahead of its collapse on the 27th of that month.[128] The airport leadership declared in September 2017 that the bankruptcy of Air Berlin would have had no imminent impact on the expected traffic volume at the new airport[129][130] as several of Air Berlin's routes had been taken over by other airlines, e.g., easyJet.[131]

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, EasyJet was due to become the overall largest airline at the airport in terms of routes served, ahead of Ryanair. In May 2019, Ryanair announced that they would not move to the new facilities, and would keep using the old building at the side of Berlin Schönefeld Airport, which has now become part of Berlin Brandenburg Airport as its Terminal 5.[132] As of 2021, Ryanair remained in the new main building because Terminal 5 was closed for the foreseeable future.

Lufthansa does not use Berlin Brandenburg Airport as a hub.[133][134] By 2011, they planned to greatly expand its presence in Berlin. At its former facilities at Tegel Airport the airline added several European destinations[135] which have all since ceased or were turned over to Eurowings.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the airport's already sparse long-haul operations is still ongoing. As of summer 2020, eight destinations in the US, Asia, and the Middle East were supposed to be served,[136] but travel restrictions caused various connections to be terminated or not to be activated.[137][138][139] Some routes, such as to Singapore with Scoot, have since resumed. In 2021, the airport authority sought to establish 25 long-haul routes from Berlin by 2025 including negotiations for a revised bilateral agreement to allow Emirates to serve a fifth German city.[140] United Airlines announced its return to Berlin with a service to Newark, which already had been served from Tegel, as well as a new route to Washington, D.C., in 2023.[141] In July 2022, Delta Air Lines announced its 2023 return to Berlin with a service to New York–Kennedy, which it had last served from Tegel from 2017 to 2019.[citation needed] Currently this is a seasonal connection, only in the summer flight schedule.[142]

Projected passenger volume and expansion plans[edit]

Since German reunification, air traffic in Berlin has increased greatly. In 1991, the combined passenger volume of the city's airports was 7.9 million per year. By 2014, this number had risen to 28 million.[143] By Berlin Brandenburg's opening, it was projected to have a capacity of 27 million passengers per year.[144] There are concerns that the airport will have insufficient capacity upon opening and plans are already in place for expansion.[145] It may be expanded by up to two satellite concourses, bringing the terminal capacity to 45 million with runways capable of accommodating 50 million passengers per year. The two satellites located on the apron parallel to the main pier and linked by tunnel, are included in the construction permit of Berlin Brandenburg Airport. This means they could be built at any time without further regulatory hurdles or the possibility of third-party objections. A possible third runway could be located in the south, though no such plans exist to date.[146]

It was planned to build a Terminal 3 next to Terminal 2 by 2029.[147][148] This plan was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Passenger[edit]

The following airlines offer regular scheduled and charter flights at Berlin Brandenburg Airport:[149]

AirlinesDestinations
Aegean Airlines Athens, Thessaloniki
Aer Lingus Dublin
Air Cairo[150][151] Hurghada
Seasonal: Sharm El Sheikh[152]
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Air Serbia Belgrade
airBaltic Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius
AJet Ankara, Istanbul–Sabiha Gökçen
Seasonal: Adana,[153] Gaziantep,[153] Samsun[153]
Austrian Airlines Vienna
Azerbaijan Airlines Baku[154]
British Airways London–City, London–Heathrow
Brussels Airlines Brussels
Bulgaria Air Sofia
Condor Dubai–International (begins 27 October 2024)[155]
Seasonal: Agadir (begins 29 October 2024),[156] Corfu (begins 3 May 2025),[157] Gran Canaria (begins 31 October 2024),[158] Hurghada (begins 28 October 2024),[159] Rhodes (begins 1 May 2025)[160]
Corendon Airlines[161] Antalya
Seasonal: İzmir
Corendon Airlines Europe Tel Aviv[162]
Seasonal: Heraklion, Hurghada
Croatia Airlines Zagreb[163][164]
Seasonal: Split[citation needed]
DAT Saarbrücken[165]
Delta Air Lines Seasonal: New York–JFK[166]
easyJet Agadir (resumes 5 November 2024),[167] Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel/Mulhouse, Birmingham,[168] Bristol, Catania, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Geneva, Glasgow, Gran Canaria, Hurghada, Larnaca, Liverpool (resumes 14 February 2025),[167] London–Gatwick, London–Luton, Lyon (resumes 8 November 2024),[167] Málaga, Manchester, Milan–Linate, Naples, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Paris–Orly, Pisa, Pristina, Rome–Fiumicino, Stockholm–Arlanda, Tel Aviv (resumes 30 October 2024),[169][170] Tenerife–South, Valencia, Venice, Zürich
Seasonal: Antalya,[171] Aqaba (resumes 30 October 2024)[172][better source needed] Bordeaux, Burgas, Chania, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Giza (begins 9 November 2024),[173] Heraklion, Ibiza, İzmir,[171] Kos, Lanzarote, La Palma,[174] Marsa Alam, Olbia, Porto, Preveza/Lefkada, Pula, Rhodes, Rijeka,[175] Rovaniemi (begins 5 December 2024),[176][177] Salerno (begins 12 July 2024),[178] Sharm El Sheikh, Split, Thessaloniki, Tivat, Toulouse,[179] Zadar
Egyptair Cairo[180][better source needed]
El Al Tel Aviv
Eurowings Alicante,[181] Beirut, Cologne/Bonn, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Erbil,[182] Gothenburg, Graz, Helsinki, Jeddah (begins 4 November 2024),[183] Málaga, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Porto, Salzburg, Stockholm–Arlanda, Stuttgart, Tbilisi,[184] Vienna,[185] Yerevan,[186] Zürich[185]
Seasonal: Adana (begins 16 July 2024),[187] Antalya,[181] Bastia, Casablanca (begins 21 July 2024),[187] Dubai–Al Maktoum (begins 30 March 2025),[188] Dubai–International (ends 29 March 2025),[189] Dubrovnik, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Heraklion, Hurghada, Ibiza,[181] Innsbruck,[190] Kos,[191] Lanzarote, Larnaca,[181] Rhodes,[181] Rijeka, Rovaniemi,[192] Split, Tenerife–South, Tivat,[185] Tromsø,[192] Tunis (begins 15 July 2024),[193] Zadar, Zakynthos[181]
Finnair Helsinki
FlyErbil Erbil[194]
Flynas Jeddah (begins 4 September 2024)[195]
FlyOne Chișinău[196]
Freebird Airlines[197] Seasonal: Antalya
Georgian Airways Tbilisi[198]
Hainan Airlines Beijing–Capital[199]
Iberia Madrid
Icelandair Reykjavík–Keflavík
Iraqi Airways Baghdad, Erbil
Israir Airlines Seasonal: Tel Aviv
Jet2.com[200] Seasonal: Glasgow (begins 29 November 2024), Leeds/Bradford, Manchester (begins 29 November 2024), Newcastle upon Tyne
KLM Amsterdam
KM Malta Airlines Malta[201]
LOT Polish Airlines Warsaw–Chopin
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Luxair Luxembourg
Norse Atlantic Airways New York–JFK[202]
Seasonal: Miami
Norwegian Air Shuttle[203] Bergen, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm–Arlanda, Trondheim[204]
Seasonal: Tromsø[205]
Nouvelair[206] Seasonal: Djerba,[207] Monastir, Tunis
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul–Sabiha Gökçen
Seasonal: Ankara,[208] Antalya, İzmir[209]
Play[210] Reykjavík–Keflavík
Qatar Airways Doha
Royal Jordanian Amman–Queen Alia (begins 2 October 2024)[211]
Ryanair Alicante, Barcelona, Bari, Bergamo, Birmingham,[212] Bologna, Brussels, Bucharest–Otopeni, Budapest, Catania, Dublin, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Faro, Gran Canaria, Kaunas,[213] Kraków,[214] Lisbon, London–Stansted, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Marrakesh, Marseille, Milan–Malpensa, Palermo, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Pisa, Podgorica, Porto, Reggio Calabria,[215] Riga, Rome–Fiumicino, Sofia, Tallinn, Tel Aviv,[216] Tenerife–South, Thessaloniki, Trieste,[187] Valencia, Vilnius
Seasonal: Athens, Castellón,[217] Chania, Corfu, Dubrovnik,[218] Fuerteventura, Heraklion, Ibiza, Kos, Lanzarote, Luxembourg, Rhodes, Treviso, Venice, Zadar
Scandinavian Airlines Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm–Arlanda
Scoot[219] Athens,[220] Singapore
SkyAlps[221] Bolzano
SmartLynx Airlines[222] Seasonal charter: Dubai–Al Maktoum[223]
Sundair[224] Beirut, Hurghada
Seasonal: Burgas,[224][better source needed] Fuerteventura,[224][better source needed] Gran Canaria, Heraklion, Kos, Luxor (begins 7 November 2024),[224][better source needed] Monastir,[citation needed] Palma de Mallorca, Rhodes, Tenerife–South, Varna[224][better source needed]
SunExpress[225] Antalya, Gaziantep, Izmir
Seasonal: Adana,[226] Ankara,[226] Bodrum,[227] Dalaman, Diyarbakir (begins 24 July 2024),[228] Kayseri (begins 22 July 2024),[228] Samsun
Swiss International Air Lines Zürich
TAP Air Portugal Lisbon
Transavia[229] Paris–Orly
Seasonal: Montpellier, Nantes
Tunisair Seasonal: Djerba
Turkish Airlines Istanbul
Seasonal: Adana, Antalya, Bodrum, Gaziantep, Izmir, Samsun
United Airlines Newark
Vueling Barcelona
Volotea Lyon,[230] Strasbourg,[231] Verona[230]
Wizz Air Belgrade,[232] Budapest, Iași,[233] Kutaisi, Rome–Fiumicino,[234] Skopje, Tirana, Varna

Cargo[edit]

AirlinesDestinations
ASL Airlines France[235] Hannover, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
FedEx Express[236] Paris–Charles de Gaulle
UPS Airlines[237] Cologne/Bonn, Gdańsk

Statistics[edit]

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at BER airport. See Wikidata query.

In 2019, the two Berlin operational airports together served 35.6 million passengers,[238] which sharply decreased to 9 million for 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19-pandemic.[239] In 2021, Berlin Brandenburg Airport slightly increased that figure to 9.9 million passengers.[240]

Annual Passenger Traffic
Year Passengers % Change Ref.
2020 444,893 [241]
2021 9,947,006 Increase 2,135.8% [240]
2022 19,845,046 Increase 99.5% [242]
2023 23,071,865 Increase 16.3% [3][4]
Monthly Passenger Traffic
Monat 2024 Pax % 2023 Pax % 2022 Pax % 2021 Pax %
Januar 1.477.579 Increase12,8% 1.309.645 Increase70,6% 767.710 Increase269,6% 207.587 Decrease-90,8%
Februar 1.572.986 Increase10,9% 1.418.368 Increase48,9% 952.663 Increase548,6% 146.945 Decrease-93,6%
März 1.921.062 Increase15,0% 1.670.091 Increase28,3% 1.301.449 Increase490,8% 220.257 Decrease-78,7%
April 2.152.146 Increase12,6% 1.910.670 Increase6,8% 1.789.655 Increase576,0% 264.710 Increase859,2%
Mai 2.368.531 Increase13,2% 2.091.691 Increase8,4% 1.929.380 Increase433,2% 362.305 Increase596,3%
Juni - - 2.095.407 Increase7,9% 1.941.107 Increase197,5% 652.194 Increase288,5%
Juli - - 2.205.150 Increase11,8% 1.973.258 Increase57,7% 1.251.383 Increase78,4%
August - - 2.219.669 Increase14,7% 1.935.183 Increase35,0% 1.433.612 Increase73,0%
September - - 2.269.769 Increase9,9% 2.066.204 Increase41,3% 1.462.530 Increase110,8%
Oktober - - 2.359.832 Increase12,3% 2.100.789 Increase25,6% 1.672.009 Increase187,6%
November - - 1.754.461 Increase12,5% 1.559.578 Increase28,1% 1.217.142 Increase472,0%
Dezember - - 1.767.112 Increase15,6% 1.529.138 Increase44,8% 1.056.221 Increase298,6%

Data for 2019 (pre-pandemic year; closure of Berlin Schönefeld and Berlin Tegel airports). The data is taken from the official airport website.[243]

Passenger Traffic
Monat Last 12 months % Veränderung 2019 (pre-pandemic)
Januar 2024 1.477.579 Decrease-38,9% 2.418.966
Februar 2024 1.572.986 Decrease-38,0% 2.537.951
März 2024 1.921.062 Decrease-34,5% 2.933.576
April 2024 2.152.146 Decrease-30,6% 3.102.128
Mai 2024 2.368.531 Decrease-26,0% 3.200.803
Juni 2023 2.095.407 Decrease-35,7% 3.261.495
Juli 2023 2.205.150 Decrease-34,3% 3.358.651
August 2023 2.219.669 Decrease-30,2% 3.180.931
September 2023 2.269.769 Decrease-30,5% 3.266.592
Oktober 2023 2.359.832 Decrease-27,0% 3.233.026
November 2023 1.754.461 Decrease-31,0% 2.544.520
Dezember 2023 1.767.112 Decrease-32,2% 2.606.366
Summe 24.164.704 Decrease-30,2% 34.635.005

Ground transportation[edit]

Rail[edit]

Map of bus and rail connections into and around Berlin. An express line serves Berlin Hauptbahnhof in 30 minutes.[244]
Interior of the airport station

The terminal connects to a 3.1-kilometre (1.9 mi) east–west railway tunnel under the apron and the terminal complex. As the nine tunnel sections were the first structures to be built, they were constructed by conventional excavations.

BER Airport station has six tracks and forms the lowest level of Terminal 1–2.[245] Two tracks serve as a terminus for the S-Bahn – with the S9 serving the Stadtbahn and the S45 serving the southern Ringbahn. The other four tracks handle EuroCity, InterCity, Intercity-Express and Regional-Express trains. The Terminal 5 complex is served by Schönefeld (bei Berlin) station which previously served the former Schönefeld Airport.

Deutsche Bahn confirmed in August 2011 that multiple daily Intercity-Express and InterCity trains will connect the airport to Bielefeld, Hannover, Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig, Halle and Wolfsburg. EuroCity trains will also connect to Wrocław and Kraków in Poland, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Prague in the Czech Republic.[246]

About half of the passengers are expected to access BER by rail. An express line (Regionalbahn) will connect the airport with the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin main station) in 30 minutes.[247] Two more stops at Potsdamer Platz and Berlin Südkreuz will be part of the Airport Express, which is planned to make the trip in 20 minutes.[246] As of 2019, rebuilding the Berlin–Dresden railway that would allow the 20-minute trip to Hauptbahnhof is expected to finish in 2025.[248] Until then, the express train will run via Berlin-Gesundbrunnen and Ostkreuz.[249]

According to the district administrator of Dahme-Spreewald, train rides from southern Brandenburg towards BER might be complicated and require changing trains. He suggested a new rail concept might be necessary.[250] Final construction permission for the railway station was granted on 26 March 2018.[251] The final permit for Dresdner Bahn construction was granted on 13 September 2019.[248]

Because Terminal 5 was closed, both stations serving the airport area were renamed in December 2023, to BER Airport station and to Schönefeld (bei Berlin) station.[252]

Proposed expansions[edit]

U-Bahn

Line U7 terminates short of the airport (at Rudow) but there are plans to extend it towards the airport if and when funds become available. The issue is complicated by the fact that the line would have to cross the state border between Berlin and Brandenburg and it is unclear who would have to pay for which parts of construction operations and maintenance. While Berlin has many "ghost stations" built in preparation for potential future construction, there is no provision underneath the terminal building for a station.[253][254][255][256]

Magnetic levitation railway

In June 2020, the CDU Berlin (then in opposition at the state level) proposed building a Maglev of the Transport System Bögl (developed by the Bavarian construction company Max Bögl) to the airport.[257][258][259][260][261]

Road[edit]

Map of motorways in Berlin

Berlin Brandenburg Airport is connected by its own exit to the A113. The road carries traffic into Berlin via the A100 and out to the A10 where it continues south as the A13 in the direction of Dresden. Highway 96a along the north side of the airport is being expanded to four lanes towards Potsdam.[when?]

Four car parks and a car rental centre were scheduled to be completed by the opening of BER. Around 10,000 parking spaces were planned to be available in four multi-storey car parks.[needs update]

A study released in September 2016 attested that BER would double the amount of vehicular traffic, causing frequent traffic jams on the Autobahn once the airport opened. The A100 and A113 did not have enough lanes to support the expected volume of traffic. The approach to BER was deemed insufficient for the expected traffic and was expected to lead to heavy congestion on the highways throughout south-central Berlin.[262] There were also concerns about increases in vehicle crashes and air pollution.[263] Congestion was expected to be high in tunnels leading to the airport, causing frequent closings of the Britz tunnel on the A100.[264][265][266]

Over 10% of passengers were expected to come from Poland,[267] via upgraded highways on the Polish side of the border. It was hoped that these upgrades would make the airport accessible for air travellers from the western regions of that country.[268]

Bus[edit]

Public transport connections at the new airport include numerous bus services. BER is served by the express buses X7, X71 and X11. The X7 connects to the U7 subway at Rudow station. X71 connects the airport to Alt Mariendorf along the U6 via Rudow. The X11 bus continues to Lichterfelde-West and to Dahlem. There are also special express buses costing a surcharge dubbed "BER1" and "BER2" which connect the airport with Rathaus Steglitz and Potsdam main station respectively. Other bus lines also stop at a number of stations, providing connections with Berlin's public transport network and destinations in Brandenburg.

Bicycle[edit]

The access to the airport by bicycle is considered lacking by the local ADFC[269] who demand a bicycle highway to the new airport. A reason cited for the lacking bicycle access is that the plans dating to 2006 made no such provision.[270]

Commercial and exposition area[edit]

Berlin Air Show (ILA)[edit]

A flight display performed by an Airbus A320-200 at the Berlin Air Show

On 3 July 2012, the Berlin ExpoCenter Airport opened on the southeastern portion of the airport grounds.[271] Messe Berlin operates the 250,000 square metres (2,700,000 sq ft) exposition facility that is primarily intended as the site of the biennial ILA Berlin Air Show.[272]

Airport Information Centre[edit]

Coinciding with groundbreaking for construction of the new airport, an information and public relations centre called airportworld opened near the old Schönefeld Airport. On 14 November 2007, the Infotower, a 32-metre-high (105 ft) public viewing tower containing an exhibition about the new airport opened on the BER construction site.[273]

Business park[edit]

The area surrounding BER is zoned as a commercial district. Plans call for the construction of shopping centres and parking structures as well as industrial, commercial and office spaces. Situated at the terminal complex will be the BER Airport City with an area of 16 hectares (40 acres). Marketing of the real estate began in autumn 2006 and beginning in 2009 offices, hotels, car rentals, four car parks with a capacity of 10,000, restaurants and retail spaces were built here.

To the north is the BER Business Park Berlin with a planned area of 109 hectares (270 acres) for industrial and commercial use as well as congress centers. A further Business Park North was proposed as a future use of the area of the old Schönefeld terminal. However, those plans were put on hold in view of the decision to incorporate the terminal into the new airport.

Construction progress and issues[edit]

Overview[edit]

Berlin Brandenburg Airport was originally planned to open in October 2011, five years after starting construction in 2006. However, the project encountered a series of successive delays due to poor construction planning, execution, management, and corruption. The Airport finally received its operational licence in May 2020,[2] and opened for commercial traffic on 31 October 2020, 14 years after construction started and 29 years after official planning was begun.[1] Schönefeld's refurbished passenger facilities were incorporated as Terminal 5 on 25 October 2020[10][11][12] while all other airlines completed the transition from Tegel to Berlin Brandenburg Airport by 8 November 2020.[13]

The most significant cause for the continuing delays was the fire protection and alarm system. In the terminal building, the system was not built according to the construction permit and failed the mandatory acceptance test necessary to open the airport. FBB proposed an interim solution employing up to 700 human fire spotters, which the building supervision department of the local Dahme-Spreewald district rejected.[274] Inspectors uncovered flaws in the wiring, programming and implementation of the highly complex system designed by Siemens and Bosch. The system automatically controls sprinklers, smoke extractors and fire doors.[275] For aesthetic reasons, designers decided that the terminal would have smoke extraction ducts in its ceiling but that they would not exhaust to its rooftop. During a fire, smoke would be pumped from the ceiling into a shaft running down and through the basement below the structure.[276] This required the natural rising behaviour of hot air in the shaft to be reversed. Achieving this on the scale necessary for this airport is a unique undertaking and so far this elaborate smoke extraction system has not worked as planned.[28] To meet the acceptance test requirements, large scale reconstruction work of the fire system might be needed.[277] It emerged that Alfredo di Mauro, who designed the fire safety system, was not a qualified engineer. While his business cards stated he was an engineer, he was actually qualified as an engineering draughtsman.[278] Di Mauro was dismissed by the airport company in early May 2014. In the termination notice, the company cited "serious defects" in his work and that trust in their relationship was "now finally shattered". The airport company went on to state that Di Mauro's plans would be "disposed of". The system was to be rebuilt and divided into three areas in order to make it "manageable". The cost of this work was reported as being a nine-digit figure.[279]

Another major factor impacting on the construction of the airport was insolvency of general planner Planungsgemeinschaft Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg International (pg bbi) and the dismissal of the Gerkan, Marg and Partners architects. Inspectors have uncovered many examples of poor workmanship due to a lack of proper supervision and documentation, most notably concerning the wiring. Reports have surfaced about cable conduits that hold too many cables or hold cables in incompatible combinations, such as phone lines next to high voltage wires. A total of 60 kilometres (37 mi) of cooling pipes were allegedly installed with no thermal insulation. To correct this, the demolition of numerous walls may be necessary. Furthermore, exterior vents appear to be in improper locations, allowing rainwater from the western facade to enter them.[277]

Timeline[edit]

Construction delays[280]
Announcement Opening date
5 September 2006 (original) 30 October 2011
25 June 2010 3 June 2012
7 May 2012 17 March 2013
27 October 2012 27 October 2013
January 2013 on/after 2014
8 January 2014 on/after 2015
24 February 2014 on/after 2016
14 May 2014 on/after 2017
December 2014 2nd half of 2017
21 January 2017 2018
15 December 2017 31 October 2020

2006[edit]

After nearly 15 years of planning, actual construction work for Berlin Brandenburg Airport began on 5 September 2006.[281] When construction began, FBB announced 30 October 2011 as the opening day for the new facility.[282] To make way for the new airport, two villages were removed. The 335 inhabitants of Diepensee received compensation and were offered new homes in Königs Wusterhausen, a move that was completed by late 2004. The 35 villagers of Selchow were resettled to Großziethen in mid-2005.[283][86]: 16 

2007[edit]

In November 2007, the BER-Infotower opened a 32-metre-high (105 ft) public observation tower and information center.[284] It was part of the airport's visitor facilities, which also had a webcam of the construction progress.[285] The transparent and twisted structure was originally intended to be temporary, with a scheduled removal announced in 2016.[286]

2008[edit]

Construction of the terminal building began in July 2008.[287]

Tempelhof Airport was officially closed on 30 October 2008.

2010[edit]

Construction progress at today's Terminal 1 as of 2010

On 8 and 9 May 2010, the airport celebrated its topping out with open days at the airport site.[288] A few days after 14 June 2010 topping out ceremony, FBB announced that construction deadlines could not be met.[289]

2011[edit]

On 30 October 2011, the railway line and terminal station were ready for service, however no scheduled trains would operate until the opening.

Operating tests and service trials began on 24 November 2011, based on the anticipated opening date of 3 June 2012. A total of 12,000 volunteers participated in simulated check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage claim. The tests used 15,000 pieces of luggage in the automated baggage processing system, covered night-time operations and emergency scenarios.[290] This phase also saw the acceptance tests of various airport systems. It became clear on 8 May 2012 that the building could not open on schedule, officially because of the failure of the fire protection system. In reality, according to a Brandenburg State Audit report in February 2016 the usability of the airport was at 56.2%; for example, there were no ticket counters and the escalators did not work. The report went on to say there was no realistic chance that it could be used "reasonably successfully" in 2012.[291] Legal implications concerning the failed 2012 opening were expected after the release of the 2016 report.[292]

2012[edit]

As the new date drew nearer, airlines amended their timetables to reflect their plans to operate from BER. On the retail side of the airport, shops and restaurants prepared for the opening. As the airports in Tegel and Schönefeld were to close once the last flights of 2 June had been serviced, a major logistics operation for moving the airports' infrastructure was launched. Vehicles, equipment and supplies that were needed at Tegel until the final moments would have been transported to BER during the night of 2–3 June. To allow this, the authorities planned to restrict the highways linking the two airports (A113, A100 and parts of A111) to airport traffic only.[293] Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg, the national broadcaster for Berlin and Brandenburg, scheduled 24 hours of continuous live coverage of the airport move.[294] A special Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt Airport, operated with an Airbus A380, was scheduled as the first departure from the new airport on 3 June at 06:00.[294]

On 8 May 2012 just 26 days before the move, FBB again postponed the opening date. The postponement led to the cancelling of moving plans and in some cases reversing actions already completed. It cited technical difficulties, primarily concerning the fire safety and smoke exhaust systems for the delay.[295] As a result, FBB dismissed the director for technical affairs Manfred Körtgen and replaced him with Horst Amann. It also announced 17 March 2013 as the new opening date for BER. However, this was soon met by doubts resulting from the large number of construction flaws and problems that inspectors continued to find.[296]

In early September 2012, FBB further postponed the opening to 27 October 2013.[297] Again, media and experts (most notably Peter Ramsauer, Federal Minister for Construction and Infrastructure) voiced doubts about the deadline.[298]

2013[edit]

FBB announced on 6 January 2013 that the opening would be further delayed, at least until 2014; however, no definite opening date was given.[28] Klaus Wowereit resigned as chairman of the supervisory board and was replaced by Matthias Platzeck, who previously had served as his deputy. The board also dismissed Rainer Schwarz, the CEO of FBB, on 16 January.[299] By January 2013, FBB had announced and cancelled four official opening dates.[275][28] FBB named Hartmut Mehdorn, previously CEO of Deutsche Bahn (1999–2011) and Air Berlin (2011–2013) as Schwarz's replacement on 8 March 2013.[300]

The rising passenger numbers at Berlin airports and delays to BER raised concerns in 2013 that the new airport might be too small as passenger numbers at existing Berlin airports were approaching the BER design capacity.[275]

2014[edit]

On 8 January 2014, FBB announced the airport would not open that year.[301] Mehdorn stated on 24 February 2014 that it was unlikely the airport would open before 2016.[302] In remarks made in August 2014, he pointed towards 2017 or 2018.[303] Mehdorn announced no opening date by 14 October 2014, so a special commission established by the Brandenburg Parliament retained oversight of the project.[304][305][306][307][308]

The initial design for the main hall, known as "the monster" to construction workers, called for a single exhaust system. Revised plans called for multiple systems controlled by 90 km (56 mi) of wiring. By 19 May 2014 Siemens had not yet designed the wire harnesses.[309] These problems are forcing the initial construction budget to skyrocket.[28]

BBI sought to open the north pier for use by three to ten flights per day as a test, though other parts of the airport would not be operational for some time. It requested that Technischer Überwachungsverein (Technical Inspection Association, TÜV) review the facility for safety and compliance to Brandenburg building codes. In its assessment report issued on 29 July 2014, TÜV found that some lightning rods were missing and that the back-up generator powering the sprinkler system did not provide adequate power. One source with the TÜV stated, "What the airport ordered was sufficient for a circus tent, but [if power fails] not for the dimensions of the terminal."[310] The 18-kilometre-long (11 mi) exhaust system to remove smoke from a fire was also reported to be leaking.[311]

Citing dissatisfaction with construction progress, members of the airport board indicated during their 8 December 2014 meeting that they were beginning the search for a new CEO, although Mehdorn's contract ran through 2016.[312] One week later, Mehdorn announced he would resign as soon as the board named a successor, but no later than June 2015.[313][314] Karsten Mühlenfeld, former head of Rolls-Royce Germany,[315][316] replaced him as airport CEO in March.

2015[edit]

The search for a general planner was eventually stopped in February 2015.[317]

On 20 March 2015, Mehdorn again faced questions from the Investigative Commission of Berlin's parliament.[318][319] Mehdorn eventually ceased all public duties on 21 May 2015, citing health concerns.[320] Berlin's mayor Michael Müller was appointed the new head of the supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) on 3 July 2015.[321] However, he had disagreements with Mühlenfeld, primarily over the opening date.[322][323][324][325] Led by Mayor Müller, the board insisted on an opening in 2017.[326]

A former manager for BER was taken into remand for alleged bribery on 13 May 2015;[327] an Imtech manager was alleged to have given him bribes at a highway gas station in 2012.[328] Imtech built parts of the fire exhaustion system.

The German branch of (Dutch) Royal Imtech filed for bankruptcy on 6 August 2015,[329] and its parent company went bankrupt a few days later.[330][331][332] As a result, Martin Delius, leader of the commission of inquiry into the failures during the airport's construction, stated that the planned opening in late 2017 was doubtful.[333]

Also in August 2015, new allegations of corruption were published in the Bild newspaper.[334] According to the paper, some large contractors filed additional payment demands after completion of their respective projects within BER, and received the complete requested payments with almost no objections. Lawyers reviewing the process stated that the high percentage of claims granted approval was unique and extraordinary. As a result, all payments beginning from the start of the project were to be reviewed.[334] The projected opening in 2017 was declared unlikely around the same time.[335] At the end of August 2015, though, the new airport head presented the Schüßler plan as the course of action.[336] When Mehdorn testified before the Investigations Commission of the Berlin parliament in March 2015, he stated that redesigns to correct the exhaust system would not be completed until "after the summer break," and that the terminal will not be finished until March or April 2016.[318]

An immediate halt to all construction efforts in the terminal was ordered on 21 September 2015 because a collapse of the main roof was imminent. This was done according to Dahme-Spreewald district's construction supervision.[337] The shutdown lasted two weeks.[338][339][340][341] Furthermore, 600 fire protection walls had to be replaced because they were built out of aerated concrete blocks that provided insufficient fire protection. The mortar was found to be inadequate as well.[342][343]

2016[edit]

By 2016, further consequences of the low likelihood of a 2017 opening appeared on the horizon. Tegel's permit was set to expire at the end of 2017; but if Tegel closed before BER opened, massive disruptions would occur because Tegel handled over 60% of all passenger traffic in Berlin.[344] This led to expectations that pressure to open BER would mount drastically.[345]

As of 7 February 2016, 24 opaque skylights (which can allow smoke to escape) in the main gangway required approval. The opaque skylights are part of the fire exhaustion system.[346] FBB spokesman Daniel Abbou confirmed to Berliner Morgenpost that the 24 skylights may need "individual approval" rather than a blanket approval for all.[292][347]

As of April 2016, the fire exhaustion system experienced further lapses that would delay a new issuing of the rework permission for the fire suppression system. The underground railway station also needed a redesign for the underground part of the fire exhaustion system. Incoming or departing trains might suck smoke into the station, so air flow guidance was needed to avoid this effect. However, the airport could not decide upon the method by itself, as permission is needed from the Federal Railway Authority (Eisenbahnbundesamt). The construction authority of the district of Dahme-Spreewald, Eisenbahnbundesamt, and the airport thus needed to join in the redesign effort. The plans on how to rebuild the underground part would not be finished before June. Thus, with no plans, the district could not grant the redesign permission. As such, the airport could not start the redesign effort before the beginning of July (assuming that the district would promptly check on the plans). As such, the construction process was delayed by at least 8 months.[348] On 17 April 2016, it became clear that the district would conduct an intensive investigation into the construction plans. Airport head Mühlenfeld thus publicly demanded that the parties come to grips with their decision.[349]

Also in April 2016, press spokesman Daniel Abbou was fired after giving "too honest" an interview. He had stated that billions of euros had been squandered, and that only someone "dependent on medication will give you any firm guarantees for this airport."[350][351] On 25 April 2016, Mühlenfeld stated that "surprisingly, demands (towards a simulation of the problem) are higher than expected." In fact, the Federal Railway Authority demanded that the commuter trains be simulated at speeds up to 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) when entering or leaving the station. This means it would take more time to simulate the exact solution for the underground railway station.[352] The Federal Railway Authority also called for the simulation of emergency/evacuation scenarios.[353][354] To prevent suffocation in an emergency, glass towers are to be built inside the railway station that connect to openings in the roof, which will provide fresh air.[355][356] Mold seems to be persistent, the railway station is already ventilated from time to time by mobile fans.[357]

By May 2016, it had become clear that an expedited approval of the underground station would not happen.[358] Because of this, the timetable for opening had to be pushed back to at least 2018.[359] Specifically, the airport was unable to conform to the fifth appendix for the construction permission, therefore it was declined. The airport found it disappointing that there was no quick approval of the underground redesign efforts as of 10 June. Instead, the authority stated that a filing for the fifth appendix was incomplete and insufficient. The vice district administrator for Dahme-Spreewald, Chris Halecker, decried political pressure from the airport.[360]

On 23 August 2016, a former FBB department head admitted in court to taking €150,000 in bribes from Imtech, on a parking lot next to a highway in 2012.[361] At the end of August 2016 it was announced that the airport had missed an internal deadline, and that the permissions for the next phase of construction could not be issued. This was because the fire protection system for the connection between the airport and railway station lacked sufficient documentation.[362] These conditions were met on 6 October 2016.[363] The conditions for the final construction approval would only be met on 27 January 2017.[364][365]

The project management missed a 7 October 2016 deadline to announce a definite opening date for the airport.[366] In October 2016, traffic commission chairman Burkert declared that an opening in 2017 was impossible.[367] An 11 October 2016 committee session found that motors used to open and close windows would not operate above 30 °C (86 °F), necessitating their replacement.[368] Three thousand smoke detectors went missing, but were later found.[369][370] Technical issues involving the electric doors became public on 18 January 2017. It was discovered that 80% of the doors would not open, which created concerns around venting of smoke in a fire.[371] The sprinkler system had sustained failures in the south pier.[372] The sprinkler heads were replaced for increased water flow, but the pipes were too thin to carry it; as a result the ceiling needed to be opened for the pipes to be replaced.[373] The new low-cost terminal T2 will possibly be delayed until after 2020.[374] It was revealed in a newspaper report that the airport could not open before 2018, and that this had been known by the airport for three years despite public statements otherwise.[375]

The main construction permit (that is, the permission of the authority of Berlin issues to construction firms) was destined to expire. This would mean all construction work would have to terminate on 23 November 2016. A new law, referred to as a "Lex BER", extended the construction permission for ongoing projects.[376]

By the end of 2016, unfinished construction and corrective work indicated clearly that an opening prior to late 2017 was unlikely.[377][378][379][380] In December 2016, Mühlenfeld hinted at a possible 2018 opening;[381][382][383][384] Ryanair marketing head Kenny Jacobs suggested March 2018.[385]

2017[edit]

In January 2017, it became clear that the airport would not open in 2017,[386][387][388] with some estimates suggesting that the airport would open in 2018 or 2019, at the latest.[389][390][391] On 6 March 2017, Lütke-Daldrup was appointed to replace Mühlenfeld as the head of the construction project[392][393][394] and Rainer Bretschneider was appointed head of the supervisory board.[395] The target opening was pushed to 2018 or 2019,[396][397] with 2020 as a possible option.[398] In Aug 2017 the Berliner Zeitung reported that the airport's remaining funds would run out in 2018.[399]

As of May 2017, estimates suggested the airport could open in late 2018 or early 2019, but an opening in 2020 was not ruled out.[400] The opening date of 2019 had already been described as ambitious[401] and even the new opening date of 2020 was called into question. On 23 November 2017, exactly 2,000 days after the originally planned opening date in 2012, a TÜV report listed additional deficits. It is possible that the new deficits will cause an additional delay of up to two years, with an opening in 2021.[402] At the end of 2017, autumn 2020 was announced as the new official opening date.[403]

The recent bankruptcy of Air Berlin was another problem for the airport. With Air Berlin absent it became even clearer that the airport would not become a major hub.[404] The number of connections a person can catch would be immediately reduced and Tegel was too far away to be any help in this regard. Interested citizens forced a non-binding public quorum that was held parallel to the federal election, asking whether Tegel should remain open if BER was already in operation. The majority of Berlin's citizens agreed.[405]

In November 2017, an audit of the entire airport by Germany's technical supervision service TÜV uncovered more significant lapses in the fire and emergency systems, further pushing back estimates.[406]

2018[edit]

In January 2018, it was disclosed that the airport head is simultaneously earning a monthly wage and a retirement pension as a former state secretary of the state of Berlin, a situation described as a "scandal" and potentially illegal.[407] The airport was scheduled to open in 2020 with a total cost exceeding €7 billion.[408][409] The airport chief executive gave his assurance that the date would be met.[410]

In March, it was reported that 750 display screens have already reached the end of their service life and will need to be replaced, as they were switched on for 6 years despite the airport not being open.[411][412]

Planned extensions of the airport were also seen as a threat to opening in 2020, according to the airport's engineering advisor Faulenbach da Costa.[413] More people than previously expected would be moving through the main terminal, causing an increase in fire emergency load, with even more passengers arriving through the railway station in the basement. Thus smoke systems would need to be adjusted once again.[414] Lufthansa board member Thorsten Dirks [de] said "the airport will be torn down and rebuilt."[415][416]

Personnel changes continued to affect the project, with the head of the technical department Jörg Marks leaving the company on 19 April 2018, and Brandenburg's state secretary for airport affairs Rainer Bretschneider going into retirement in June.[417][418][419]

The airport failed a mandatory TÜV acceptance test in May 2018, with 863 issues found in the electric wiring.[420] Wiring remained a major issue in 2018. The all-around test was planned to commence sometime in September 2018 but it was postponed to June 2019 because the wiring was still flawed.[421] Also in May 2018, Siemens, the software supplier for the smoke suction system, testified before Berlin's senate's airport commission stating that the airport had not yet delivered essential paperwork required for them to complete the suction software.[422] In the same month the airport faced new legal issues as concerned citizens claimed that the aeroplane noise caused by the new airport would violate their rights to be heard. A few months later Germany's supreme court ruled that nighttime flights over BER are lawful.[423]

In June Berlin's assembly formed a new committee of inquiry to uncover responsibility for ongoing construction lapses and to investigate possible sources of further delay.[424] The still-unopened airport announced plans to expand with a second terminal in July, with construction to be done by Zechbau Bremen for a total cost of €200 million.[425][426]

2019[edit]

Exterior of Terminal 2, which had been added in the last phases of construction to provide further capacity

It was reported at the start of January 2019 that the construction oversight authority was unwilling to permit the Terminal's wiring as is, because it was too tangled.[citation needed]

Berlin's Tagesspiegel reported that Bosch (fire detection) and Caverion (sprinklers) were unwilling to participate in a hearing of Berlin's parliament on 14 March 2019. It was then assumed that the airport would not open until 2020.[427] The fire protection malfunction seems to be too significant to keep 2020 as an opening date.[428]

On 28 March 2019, it was reported that a software update for the fire alarm system planned to be ready by 29 March would be delayed until late May. TÜV Rheinland warned that there were still considerable problems with the system, and stated that if there were any further delays the October 2020 opening date would be missed.[429] On 16 April 2019, the smoke suction system nicknamed "the Monster" finally received approval from TÜV,[430] afterwards by an expert representing the State.[431]

In May 2019, it was reported that sand-lime brick used in the foundations of the airport were not sufficiently rated for load, necessitating a costly replacement of much of the underground cabling and reinforced concrete beams. According to a subsequent investigation the problem had been known since 2012. The problematic plastic anchors that were earlier found to be unsuitable for fire were also found not suitable for sand-lime brick. As stated by Deutsches Institut für Bautechnik, it is not possible to approve already-installed anchors after the fact.[432] Later in May the head of the airport Lütke-Daldrup stated that "it cannot be guaranteed entirely anymore" that the airport will open in October 2020.[433] Unapproved screw anchors made of plastic not rated for fire seem to have been the reason for the new delay.[434][435][436]

Problems with the cable duct were also known since 2012: 700 kilometres (430 mi) of cable needed to be replaced because water was flowing within the cable ducts next to the southern runway. The ducts were not leakproof and had eroded in the decade since they were first installed. The repairs were scheduled to start later in 2019. According to airport head Lütke-Daldrup, the planned opening date of October 2020 was not affected by the cable duct problem, as the repairs could continue while the airport was in operation.[437] German minister of traffic Mr Scheuer however reiterated his concerns that the sand lime brick and cable duct issues could delay the opening beyond 2020.[438] Conservative party member Graeff stated that if the airport continued to see these kinds of delays, then officials should go ahead and start planning construction of a new airport in a different location.[439][440]

The head of the expansion facility management cancelled his contract at the end of June 2019 for unspecified personal reasons.[441] The construction progress at the T2 site remained slow,[442][443] but the topping out of T2 finally took place on 30 July.[444] Final equipment tests took place at the airport over the summer of 2019;[445] with the first tests appearing to have been successful.[446]

On 31 July 2019, construction work at terminal T2 was finished in a record time of only 10 months. Initially planned to cost €200 million, the exploding cost of Berlin Brandenburg Airport as a whole made it necessary to reduce standards and cut the cost of T2 by 50%, to no more than €100 million. The attempts to reduce costs were unsuccessful, as criticised in a report to the supervisory board. Nonetheless, Lütke-Daldrup took the timely completion of terminal T2 as a sign that the problems at BER were coming to an end. Lütke-Daldrup said that he was hopeful that the airport could open as soon as August 2020, two months earlier than currently scheduled.[447] In late July 2019, Lütke-Daldrup stated that, of the more than 11,000 shortcomings reported in March 2019, over 70% had been resolved, including several hundred problems of high priority that would preclude the start of the final TÜV rehearsal.[448] On 1 August 2019 a several-month TÜV rehearsal of BER's technical facilities began, marking the first time that all airport systems have been tested simultaneously.[449]

Renewed checks at T2 yielded serious construction lapses, though. The concrete foundation needed to be partly rebuilt to accommodate technical systems,[450][451] with issues in the wiring arrangement and the ability to withstand sustained usage and heat.[452]

It was also announced that a third terminal is planned to be erected by 2029[453] and that €174 m for payments to advisors was not listed in the balance sheets for 2018.[454] Brandenburg's radio station reported that certain tests that were delayed anew at the end of 2019 were what put the opening date of 2020 into doubt again.[455]

2020[edit]

In January 2020, union strikes threatened to further delay opening. The union has been fighting for a general working payment to limit competition among ground personnel.[456] By mid-February, the planned opening continued to be doubted upon because 5,000 issues still required rectification and certification by an external inspection company (TÜV) in order to complete construction by the end of the first quarter of 2020. These issues were seen as "grave", meaning that any of them could have caused the inspection company to halt operation.[457][458][459] As of 19 February 2020, 1,000 lapses were still unresolved, 3,300 were being checked by TÜV, and 700 proposed solutions had already been rejected. About 70 issues, including the problem of unapproved screw anchors, still lacked the proper documentation to start working on a solution. Those issues threatened to delay the start of test operations that were scheduled for April 2020.[460] The screw anchor problem was resolved in March.[461]

In early 2020, the airport successfully commenced a volunteer-driven test run of its main functions, including processing at ticket counters.[462] After TÜV approved the emergency and safety systems, the airport received final authority approval on 28 April 2020.[463] Construction work officially ended on 15 May 2020.[464]

Christoph Schaefer was set to become new technical head as a successor to Carsten Wilmsen.[465] However, financial difficulties caused Schaefer's position to remain vacant.[466] It was also reported that the airport operations company FBB was in imminent financial trouble due to the construction issues and delays as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.[467]

The airport finally received its operating licence in May 2020, allowing an opening date to be set.[2][468][469][470] The local and aviation authorities then gave final approval for the airport to open on 31 October 2020.[1] Plans to bring forward the closure of Tegel to June 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic were shelved for an estimated lack of capacity at Schönefeld's old facilities.[471][472]

From August 2020, the procedure to move all equipment from both current airports to their new facilities commenced.[473]

On 15 October 2020, all test runs of the airport's passenger facilities and procedures, which included thousands of volunteers since spring, concluded successfully after being slightly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.[474][475]

After Schönefeld's facilities formally became Terminal 5 of BER ahead on 25 October 2020,[10] all airlines moved from Tegel to BER between 31 October and 8 November 2020.[13] The first flight to land at the new airport was an easyJet special service from Tegel on 31 October 2020, followed shortly after by a Lufthansa special service from Munich.[476] Lufthansa applied a special "Hauptstadtflieger" (capital city flyer) sticker to the aircraft in celebration of the flight.[477] The first departure from the new Terminal 1 was a flight to London–Heathrow on 1 November 2020.[478]

Controversies[edit]

In September 2010, Deutsche Flugsicherung published aircraft arrival and departure routes for Berlin Brandenburg Airport which significantly differ from earlier ones used in the court decision for the construction permit. In the original maps, aircraft were expected to take off and land in a path parallel with the runway. The new plans saw flight paths that deviate from the runway direction by 15 degrees. Therefore, aircraft would now fly over areas in southern Berlin (Lichtenrade, Steglitz and Zehlendorf) and adjacent Brandenburg (Teltow, Stahnsdorf, Kleinmachnow and Potsdam) to the surprise of local residents. This prompted a wave of protests and a lawsuit that the courts rejected.[479]

Both the expansion of Schönefeld Airport into BER and the quality of the connection to the railway network are the subject of public debate. The Bürgerverein Brandenburg-Berlin e.V. represents local residents who protest an expansion of air traffic to and from the south of Berlin. Also, traffic and environmental experts criticise the late completion dates for the fast connection to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Still, Berlin Hauptbahnhof will be only a 30-minute journey with trains departing every 15 minutes upon inauguration. At the time of the originally planned opening date of BER, in 2011, this was expected to be reduced to 20 minutes after reconstruction of the Berlin section of the Berlin–Dresden railway, which was planned to be finished by 2020.[480] However, delays in both the BER construction and the construction of the railway meant that the travel time will be 30 minutes until at least 2025.[481]

In 2015, a whistleblower alleged that Imtech, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015, had bribed airport officials to receive inflated payments for their work. Prosecutors in Brandenburg launched a probe into the allegations.[482] In May 2016, it emerged that the whistleblower had been poisoned with a "deadly substance" but survived after a three-month period of illness.[483]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Kuhlmann, Bernd (1996). Schönefeld bei Berlin: 1 Amt, 1 Flughafen und 11 Bahnhöfe [Schönefeld near Berlin: 1 Office, 1 Airport, and 11 railway stations]. Berlin: Gesellschaft für Verkehrspolitik und Eisenbahnwesen [Society for Transport Policy and Railways]. ISBN 978-3-89218-038-8. OCLC 75906791.
  • von Przychowski, Hans (2001). Fehlstart oder Bruchlandung? Berlin-Brandenburger Flughafen-Politik. Verlorene Jahre – verlorene Millionen. Das Ringen um den BBI, 1990–2000, eine Zeittafel mit Kommentaren [Aborted start or crash landing? Lost years – lost millions. The struggle over the BBI, 1990–2000, a chronology with commentary]. Berlin: NoRa. ISBN 978-3-935445-26-9. OCLC 76312197.

External links[edit]