Berlin (dpa) – There shouldn’t be a party for the capital’s new BER airport, but it will be festive when the first plane lands there on the weekend with a nine-year delay.
For the airport chief, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, the long-awaited start is likely to be just a brief ray of hope. The Berlin-Brandenburg airport company has the crown crisis and strained financial situation under control. Even in the first days of operation, only a few thousand passengers are expected at the new location. Airlines are adapting to this with a correspondingly reduced offer.
For example, Berlin’s biggest supplier to date, British airline Easyjet, has agreed with the unions to reduce the fleet stationed in Berlin from 34 aircraft to 18 last year. The airline initially offers 23 routes to international destinations, as announced. Next year there should be 70 connections. “If demand increases, we will expand our flight offerings accordingly,” he said. Easyjet plans to start operations at BER with around 180 flights in the first week. In 2019, there were around 250 daily flights from Berlin’s Tegel and Schönefeld airports.
Lufthansa does not have its own aircraft at BER. Use the airport primarily as a departure point for long-haul flights with a single change at the hubs in Frankfurt or Munich. Germany’s largest airline plans to start in BER with just 30 flights a day, about half the number before the crisis.
Lufthansa’s subsidiary Eurowings, on the other hand, will depart BER for the first time on November 4, as the company announced. The airline will initially offer 70 flights per week. A large part of these are German national connections. Of around 300 departures scheduled for November, only about 16 go abroad. “This shows the picture of travel restrictions for most holiday destinations in Europe,” said a spokesman.
Low-cost carrier Ryanair will also reduce its BER capacities for the winter flight schedule, to 40 percent from the previous year, as announced by the Irish company on request. Ryanair will then offer around 27 international routes.
Airport chief Engelbert Lütke Daldrup had recently expected a total of around 5,000 passengers on the airport’s opening day at the main terminal T1. With the closure of Tegel a week later, around 16,000 passengers would be processed at T1. Another 8,000 passengers would then travel through Schönefeld Airport, which serves as Terminal 5 for BER. In view of these low numbers, Terminal 2, which has already been completed, will not be needed for the time being and therefore will not open until spring.
The high construction costs of the airport and the drop in passenger numbers during the crisis have put the airport company in financial difficulties. The owners, the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, have already jumped into the gap this year with 300 million euros. A loan of around 550 million euros has been approved for next year.
However, the ruling mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller (SPD), is confident that this will not be permanent. “We saw with Tegel and Schönefeld that an airport makes money,” the SPD politician told the German press agency. “We have a special situation with BER because construction costs have to come back.” And the whole system has to start working, even beyond air traffic.
“But now we are experiencing a pandemic. We have fewer passengers and fewer companies using the entire Tegel and Schönefeld area. When we have overcome the crisis, you will make money with the new airport, as with the old one, ”said Müller.
Protest actions have been announced for the opening of the weekend in Schönefeld. The police expect a total of around 3,000 participants in the demonstrations, rallies and vigils. According to the organizers, about 1,000 taxi drivers want to participate in a taxi rally from Tegel airport to BER alone.
The group “Stay on the ground” announced that they wanted to “massively interrupt” the opening with an action of civil disobedience. Their protest is directed against the opening of the airport as a false signal in the climate crisis.