Economy & Politics airport opens – but the problems remain

After years of delay, the first aircraft will land at the new BER airport on the weekend. Photo: dpa / Patrick Pleul

The first planes land at BER at the weekend. But the long-awaited start of the new airport in the capital only allows the current problems to be forgotten for a short time: the corona crisis and financial difficulties continue to cause problems for the airport company.

Berlin – There shouldn’t be a party for the new capital airport BER – but it will still be a festive event when the first aircraft touch down there on the weekend with a nine-year delay. For airport boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, the long-awaited start is likely to remain only a brief ray of hope. The Berlin-Brandenburg airport company has both the corona crisis and the tense financial situation firmly under control. Even in the first few days of operation, only a few thousand passengers are expected at the new location. The airlines are adjusting to this with a correspondingly reduced offer.

From our plus offer: An airport with German virtues

The largest provider in Berlin to date, the British airline Easyjet, has agreed with the trade unions to reduce the fleet stationed in Berlin from 34 aircraft to 18 last year. The airline is initially offering 46 routes to international destinations, as it announced. In the coming year there should be 70 connections. “If the demand increases, we will expand our flight offer accordingly,” it said. Easyjet is planning to start operations at BER with around 180 flights per week. In 2019, there were around 250 flights a day from Berlin’s Tegel and Schönefeld airports.

Lufthansa uses the airport as a starting point for long-haul flights

Lufthansa has no aircraft of its own at BER. It uses the airport primarily as a starting point for long-haul flights with a one-time change at the Frankfurt or Munich hubs. The largest German airline is planning to start at BER with just 30 flights a day – around half as many as before the crisis.

The Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, on the other hand, will be starting from BER for the first time on November 4th, as the company announced. The airline will then initially offer 70 flights per week. A large part of these are domestic German connections. Of around 300 scheduled departures in November, only around 16 go abroad. “This shows the picture of the travel restrictions for most of the vacation destinations in Europe,” said a spokesman.

The low-cost airline Ryanair will also reduce its capacities at BER for the winter flight schedule, to 40 percent of the previous year, as the Irish company announced on request. Ryanair will then serve around 27 international routes.

Airport boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup had recently expected a total of around 5,000 passengers on the opening day of the airport at the main terminal T1. With the Tegel closure a week later, around 16,000 passengers would then be processed at T1. A further 8,000 passengers would then travel via Schönefeld Airport, which serves as Terminal 5 of BER. In view of these low numbers, Terminal 2, which has already been completed, will not be needed for the time being and should therefore only open in spring.

Loans of around 550 million euros have been approved

The high construction costs of the airport and the drop in passenger numbers during the crisis have put the airport company in financial difficulties. The owners – the federal government as well as the states of Berlin and Brandenburg – have already stepped into the breach this year with 300 million euros. A loan of around 550 million euros has been approved for the coming year.

Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) is confident, however, that this will not remain permanent. “We saw with Tegel and Schönefeld that an airport earns money,” said the SPD politician of the German press agency. “We have a special situation with BER because the construction costs have to come back.” And the whole system has to start working, including that beyond air traffic.

“But now we are experiencing a pandemic. We have fewer passengers and fewer companies that use the whole area in Tegel and Schönefeld. When we have overcome the crisis, money will be made with the new airport, just as with the old one, ”said Müller.


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