Berlin’s new international airport can open next month after an embarrassing nine-year delay, despite the coronavirus pandemic severely affecting air traffic, the managing director said on Tuesday.
“BER will open on October 31, 2020,” the head of the new facility, Engelbert Lütke-Daldrup, told reporters.
“The German capital will finally have an airport that meets international standards.”
Terminal 1 of the airport on the southern outskirts of Berlin will be inaugurated with the departures of the German airline Lufthansa and the British low-cost airline EasyJet.
A few shops and a tourism office will also open their doors the first day, but other terminals will have to wait until next year to serve passengers, Lütke-Daldrup said, due to a drop in demand because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The current Schönefeld airport located nearby will become Terminal 5.
Social distancing measures, however, will put a damper on the planned celebrations.
“There won’t be a big party, just an opening,” Lütke-Daltrup said.
BER was set to open in 2011 but the date was repeatedly pushed back over a series of issues, including fire safety and corruption.
In the meantime, the cost of the facility exploded to €6.5 billion from a €1.7 billion budget initially.
Last Thursday, Lütke-Daltrup visited BER’s new Terminal 1 with new airport employees and aviation experts.
“The way to the opening was not easy,” admitted Lütke-Daldrup, noting the “shame” of the German engineers over a project that became a joke among the locals.
After nearly a decade of repeated gaffes and scandals, he said, “There is no reason to boast.”
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, which cut passenger air traffic by more than 60 percent this year, BER was already viewed as too small to meet the needs of the region.
Nevertheless, Berlin’s main airport, Tegel, will be closed on November 8th after an Air France flight to Paris has started.
Loved for its retro look and unusual proximity to the city center, Tegel welcomed more than 24 million passengers in 2019. This makes Tegel the fourth largest airport in Germany after Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.
It was built in just 90 days by German workers with French and American allies during the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948-1949.
Together with Tempelhof Airport, which became a public park after it was closed in 2008, Tegel supported the Allied airlifts to supply the population of West Berlin with food.
[Source – The Local de]