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A roughly 9,000 m2 market square under construction at Berlin Brandenburg Airport in 2016 (Photo: Flughafen Berlin Brandenurg)

Berlin-Tegel Airport To Close for Two Months Beginning June 15

The shareholders’ meeting for Berlin Brandenburg and Federal Airports (FBB) decided last Wednesday that Berlin-Tegel Airport will close down for a two-month period starting of June 15. As the set date for reopening approaches, the shareholders will make the decision whether to reopen the airport or whether to keep it closed.

Due to the collapse in air traffic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that all traffic for the German capital will be handled by Berlin Schoenefeld, the former East Berlin airport, before the much-delayed new Berlin Brandenburg airport opens to the public on Oct. 31.

Passengers numbers for both Berlin airports — Tegel and Schoenefeld Airport — have dropped to approximately 2,000 per day in the past month, and this temporary closure would allow FFB to save approximately 200,000 euros ($218,000), reported German news outlet, Deutsche Welle.

“In the next few months, we will see if the capital region needs one or two airports,” FBB chief Lütke Dalrup told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. “Now it is about taking the next steps responsibly. Our next job is to ensure the recovery of the air industry and not hinder it.”

“This is a reasonable compromise,” confirmed FBB Finance Minister Katrin Lange, as reported by German newspaper Tagesspiegel. He added that the shareholders’ meeting had agreed to concede a temporary exemption from the duty to operate Tegel Airport, since the civil aviation needs for the city of Berlin will be adequately served by only one airport during this special period.

Tegel served more than 24 million passengers in 2019 and is the larger airport of the German capital.

With its hexagon-shaped units, Tegel Airport was a relic from another era, being opened in 1974 when it started serving then-West Berlin, an enclave of capitalism inside communist East Germany. Its layout had been made outdated by the needs of modern aviation, with post-9/11 security screening posts that would struggle to fit into its limited spaces and the narrow gates did not provide enough room for the shopping centers that make modern airport phenomenal profit machines. At European hubs like London’s Heathrow Airport or Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, around 60 percent of revenues are generated by non-aeronautical activities.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, originally slated to open in October 2011, is scheduled to open at the beginning of the next International Air Transport Association winter season — on Oct. 31 — after more than nine years of delays. The original schedule sees Berlin Tegel remaining open during the first days of operations at Brandenburg and permanently shutting down on Nov. 8.

At this point, it remains unclear whether Tegel will re-open at all after the traffic slump caused by COVID-19 or if operations will keep being handled by Schoenefeld until the opening of the new Brandenburg terminal, which shares a runway with the old Schoenefeld airport. If the airport authority believes Schoenefeld airport can handle the traffic through the third quarter, it’s likely Tegel Airport would simply remain closed.

The terminal buildings at Tegel will host offices once the airport is decommissioned, while the area including the aprons and the runways will be used to build affordable housing, reports British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Tegel’s closure will also mean that all governmental flights to and from Berlin will be handled by the new dedicated terminal purpose-built facility at Schoenefeld. The new government terminal is ten times larger than the one in Tegel with large waiting and conference areas, a room for press conferences and various other accommodations reports the Tagesspiegel. The structure, however, has not yet been completely furnished by the Government, since it was expected that it would not be operational before next fall, therefore there will need to be some emergency interventions before June 15 so that it can accommodate the governmental traffic to and from the German capital.

Vanni Gibertini
Vanni Gibertini
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