Berlin’s White Elephant

    Berlin Airport

Berlin Airport

First scheduled to open in October 2011, Berlin’s new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BER) experienced a major setback in May 2012—one month prior to its then newly-slated date of June 3, 2012. Upon failing a series of tests of the terminal’s fire control and safety installations, inspection authorities refused to give the green light to any flights until these issues became resolved.

After the announcement of this considerable upset, the airport association suggested a scattering of possible new dates over the subsequent months, all of which fell through. Debates and scrutiny have carried on, and the calling for Rainer Schwarz’s resignation as CEO of the airport association’s executive board, one member of which is Berlin’s mayor, has raged on. It is a neverending story, as Berliners will say, and many remain sceptical of the recently scheduled date for the opening of BER on 27 October 2013.

Major airlines and other businesses, which had been banking on the punctual inauguration of BER, have been weighing their options for legal actions against the airport association. However, Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest carrier, filed a claim for “compensation in damages” in November 2012. Already struggling in the red, the airline had its sights set on making BER its main hub in June, in hopes of attracting more passengers with an increase in travel connections. However, the airport’s CEO reportedly gives Air Berlin low
chances in court, stating that they “hadn’t arranged a contractual fixed date for the opening of BER,” but he hopes to reach “reasonable solutions” with the airline.

Albeit shocked by the delay of BER, ask Germans if they are surprised by the overall expense of the new airport, and the answer is overwhelmingly nein. Costs for the city’s new and modern airport facility have reached €4.2 billion, double the originally planned budget. As a result of these postponements and an exorbitant amount of added expenditures, the price tag, however, could easily exceed €4.5 billion in the end.

The German capital’s airport finds itself on a list of other pricey projects that have made controversial waves across the country. One other example of this is Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Due to security issues with the roof deisgn, the city’s prized waterfront attraction is two years behind schedule in making its grand debut. When all is said and done, the entire undertaking could surpass a half a billion euros

In the meantime, the major inter-continental and international airlines still serve Berlin’s Tegel Airport (TXL), which is already exceeding capacity. Europe’s low-budget heavyweights, easyJet and Ryanair, continue operating from Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport (SXF).

 Arriving at Schönefeld, just south of Berlin, one can see the vast complex that makes up BER— seemingly ready for business but void of the millions of passengers that the city expects to welcome each year.


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