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Opening Date For Berlin's New Airport Postponed; Airlines, Officials Seethe

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Berlin Brandenburg Airport on May 4, 2012 (photo by Kate Hinds)

The opening of Europe's newest airport has been pushed back yet again, infuriating airlines, embarrassing local officials and complicating the start of the summer travel season.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) was to have begun welcoming traffic on June 3rd. An airport spokesperson even took a group of international reporters on a tour of the construction site last week, assuring the journalists -- who were outfitted in hardhats, boots and safety vests -- that everything was on track for an opening date that was just 30 days away.

That was then; this is now.

A statement on the airport's website reads "the planned inauguration of the airport on 3 June 2012 has become a race against time" and that problems with the airport's fire protection systems has  necessitated a postponement of the opening -- which "will commence operations after summer holiday period."

BER is designed to consolidate and expand air traffic from the city's two airports, Tegel and Schonenberg. On the evening of June 2nd, those two airports were to have closed to the public. Now they must remain open indefinitely -- and try to accommodate the flight schedule of carriers who were banking on BER.

The postponement is particularly vexing to Germany's two largest air carriers, which had been planning on the new airport to be open for the start of the summer travel season. The CEO of airberlin vented his frustration in an email to media.  “We have to work around the change of plan, which presents us with a huge challenge," said Hartmut Mehdorn. "It presents immense logistical problems for all involved and will also cause additional costs which have yet to be calculated.” Lufthansa -- the country's largest carrier -- had been planning to substantially increase the number of routes it offers in and out of Berlin. Airline officials said Tuesday they were scrambling to get additional landing slots at Tegel.

The postponement not only presents logistical challenges. The city is blanketed with signs advertising June 3rd as BER's opening date. As of May 7th, there were "Danke, Tegel" posters all over that airport, thanking it for years of service.

View a slideshow of photos taken of Berlin Brandenburg Airport on May 4, 2012, below. (All photos by Kate Hinds.)

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