Berlin’s Brandenburg airport will open its doors for the first time on Saturday (31 October), a decade late and billions of euros over budget. The ill-fated hub is opening for business at an inauspicious time for aviation.
Brandenburg was meant to be an airport fit for the German capital and sufficiently large and modern to compete with the Bundesrepublik’s other mega-hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. But it has not panned out that way.
Hamstrung by politicians who insisted they knew how to manage the construction of a massive airport, Brandenburg is also opening late due to design changes made after works began and severe faults made during the installation of fire safety equipment.
Such was the increase in projected costs – the budget swelled from €1.7 billion to more than €6 billion – that some Berliners joked that it would be easier and cheaper to demolish the city and rebuild it next to an existing airport.
But the date has finally arrived and flights are scheduled to start touching down on Saturday, Halloween, before a full timetable kicks in on 8 November, when Tegel Airport waves off its final plane after nearly four decades of operation.
Air France will operate the last flight from Tegel, in a nod to the fact that the French airline was the first to arrive at the airport back in the 1940s. Tegel will therefore join Tempelhof on the list of defunct Berlin airports.
The first planes due to arrive at Brandenburg will be flown by Lufthansa and easyJet. The German flag carrier first flight will have CEO Carsten Spohr on board and be a carbon-neutral flight from Munich – all the emissions will be offset.
“No other airline group has flown as many Berliners all over the world in recent decades as the Lufthansa Group,” the airline said in a statement. One in three flights from the German capital’s airports over the last two months have been Lufthansa flights.
The first wave of passengers will be funnelled through the new airport’s terminal 1 and terminal 5 – formerly known as Schönefeld airport – before terminal 2 opens in spring 2021. Capacity is only expected to reach 20% due to low air travel demand.
Although the pandemic means that any doubts about the new airport’s total capacity – some 27 million passengers a year – will not come to fruit anytime soon, the virus crisis has already jeopardised jobs at Brandenburg.
The government has unlocked €300 million in funding to help preserve jobs and prevent the airport from going bankrupt. But a lack of air travel resurgence will mean an uncertain future for the new hub.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]