Berlin’s airport is now opening – but the drama continues. It’s not just about Corona, but also about excessive goals and a lot of money.

Terminal 1 hall in the new BER

WITHFor the inauguration of the new Berlin capital airport, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) arrives this Saturday with a well-filled wallet. In the virtual deliberations of the EU transport ministers on Thursday, the minister had already promised additional support for transport companies in view of the new corona restrictions in November – also for the airports. At the end of next week he invited to an “air traffic summit”.

The management has already informed the shareholders of Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government what BER needs in order not to go bankrupt: a grant of at least 260 million euros this year. In view of the “lockdown light” that has now been prescribed in November, the demand could also be a little higher.

In 2021, the grant could even add up to 550 million euros. The EU Commission has already started the state aid examination. Berlin’s governing mayor Michael Müller was confident about the time after Corona on Friday. “When we are out of the crisis, the new airport will make money just like the old one,” he said.

A program that has been reduced to 40 percent

Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, CEO of the airport company FBB, wanted a new start at BER with more passengers, flights and profitability.

The hall of the new airport designed by Gerkan, Marg and Partners is reminiscent of the New Berlin National Gallery.
The hall of the new airport designed by Gerkan, Marg and Partners is reminiscent of the New Berlin National Gallery.: Photo: Marcus Bredt / gmp

However, after the slight recovery in summer, the corona pandemic ensures that the number of passengers has now fallen back to around 10,000 a day, a tenth of the usual volume. The numbers are likely to decline further in November. Lufthansa and Easyjet are therefore far behind their plans.

Even a popular route like Berlin-Frankfurt is currently only offered half as often as before. Easyjet, which will be the first to move from Tegel to BER at the weekend, has halved the fleet in Berlin and only stationed 18 instead of 34 aircraft here. Lufthansa has no planes in Berlin, the Eurowings subsidiary has three.

For the start of operations at BER, Easyjet is planning around 180 flights a week. Last year there were 250 a day from Tegel and Schönefeld airports. Lufthansa intends to initially offer 30 flights a day, half as many as before the crisis. Eurowings is planning 70 flights a week, mainly connections within Germany due to the current travel restrictions. Ryanair is only offering a program that has been reduced to 40 percent in winter, with flights to 27 destinations abroad.

“There are currently 115 long-distance destinations to be reached from Berlin”

All other companies that are moving to BER think the same way. The constant hope of the Berlin airport managers that they will soon be able to offer more non-stop intercontinental flights to the public in the region is proving to be completely out of date. Transport Minister Scheuer recently assured that he would campaign for it abroad. “I’m in contact with airlines,” he said, but limited: “There is no light at the end of the tunnel because the airlines are currently reducing. But Berlin is our capital, Berlin has to be a hub. “

The answer given by Eurowings CEO Jens Bischof to the question about long-haul flights from BER is evidence of eloquent openness. “There are currently 115 long-distance destinations to be reached from Berlin,” he told journalists these days. “With just one change in Frankfurt, Munich or Zurich.” At the moment, no one should expect anything to change in the planning for Berlin.

The BER from the inside
The BER from the inside: Image: EPA

With the opening of BER, there is a general ban on night flights in the capital region for the first time. It ranges from midnight to 5 a.m. In Schönefeld, the planes have been able to land continuously so far, at Tegel Airport a take-off and landing was prohibited between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. After the airlines have moved in three stages, Tegel Airport will close on November 8th, the last time an Air France plane will leave the city there.

The old GDR airport Schönefeld will remain open for the next few years. Since last week it has been called BER Terminal 5 in airport jargon instead of SXF. The additional Terminal 2 at BER was completed on time. Because there are so few passengers at the moment, it should not open until next spring.

to open
Airport BER: The miracle of BerlinImage: Andreas Pein