Airline lounges, as well as many other nonessential facilities such as restaurants, also would not have been ready.
Air Berlin's Mehdorn says the “worst part was that we only got to know about this three weeks before the planned opening. We knew it was going to be tight, but in the end we were caught completely by surprise.
“We will not be able to cover these costs,” he says, referring to additional expenses related to the delay. “We expect the airport to cover the damages.”
Air Berlin plans to operate its schedule without major changes. The airline was about to introduce a system of six arrival and departure banks that was aimed at turning the new airport into its key hub. That system would be almost impossible to implement at the old Tegel airport because the terminal is not big enough, the baggage-handling system is outdated and there is not enough runway capacity.
Smooth operations would be a challenge even without additional flights. Air Berlin has already transferred most of its spare parts to the new airport; they will now have to be shuttled back to Tegel to avoid disruptions. The airport's main fuel tank was about to be demolished and reserves are down to a minimum. Fuel has to be transported back across the city by truck to ensure sufficient supply. Mehdorn is demanding that more baggage handlers be employed to deal with the expected increase in workload, and is worried that there will be a shortage of gates and remote stands for Air Berlin's aircraft.
Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa's passenger airline division, says many airlines may have to move temporarily to Schoenefeld to make room for Air Berlin and Lufthansa. Lufthansa said it plans to stick to its planned schedule and is in the process of securing additional slots at Tegel. However, even if it manages to gain more slots on the already busy runways, it will be a huge challenge to process the additional passengers through Tegel's crowded terminal.
Lufthansa intends to boost capacity by 40% at Berlin Brandenburg, opening up to 50 more destinations (although many of them will not be served daily). Germany's largest airline plans to base an additional six Airbus A320s in the nation's capital and introduced a low-fare scheme to stimulate demand.
As for Berlin's airport infrastructure, it has long lagged behind modern standards. Frankfurt is Lufthansa's major hub and the airline chose Munich as its second major base when the new airport in the south opened in 1992. Berlin has suffered from its isolation during the Cold War. Because of the city's status, Lufthansa was not allowed to fly there until the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Air Berlin only then started out as a charter airline that moved slowly into the scheduled arena over 20 years. It is now a member of the Oneworld alliance.
However, the city of Berlin's economic weakness persists mainly because of a lack of industry in the region. Thus, fully functioning air access is crucial for the city's development.
Berlin Brandenburg International is located to the immediate south of the current Schoenefeld airport perimeter and will use the old runway plus another one that has been newly constructed. The historic Tempelhof, site of the Berlin Airlift after World War II, was closed in 2008.