Berlin’s airport operator Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg plans to announce the latest schedule for opening Berlin Brandenburg International Airport in October and may move a small part of the operation to the new facility by the end of the year.
The city’s new airport was intended to be opened in early 2012 according the last official schedule following two earlier delays. But the move from the existing airports in Tegel and Schonefeld was called off only weeks before the opening because of construction flaws that led local authorities not to approve it.
Since then construction work has essentially stopped at the new site and airlines have been forced to continue operating out of the congested Tegel and substandard Schonefeld airports. Following the ousting of the airport operator’s former CEO Rainer Schwarz and a search for a successor that spanned months, ex-Airbus executive, Deutsche Bahn and Air Berlin CEO Hartmut Mehdorn (71) has taken over.
Mehdorn raised the idea of keeping Tegel open indefinitely even after BBI operations have started, but that proposal has hit massive political opposition in the city as well as by Air Berlin, which is trying to develop a hub at its home city. Keeping two airports open would also likely lead to higher landing fees because of the overall cost increase, although there are already major capacity issues for the new facility on the horizon: its terminal is designed to accommodate around 20 million passengers annually and that figure is already exceeded today when Tegel and Schonefeld are combined. Also, the number of runways available in Berlin would reduce from three to two.
BBI, having just completed the cargo center, plans to open facilities that are ready over the next few weeks. Mehdorn is looking at moving a part of the low cost carrier operations from the adjacent Schonefeld airport terminal to the north pier of BBI by the end of the year, which could be an interim step before the full opening. Easyjet is rumoured to be one of the operators that could switch over first.
While some progress is made, it is still unclear when BBI will take over. The airport operator’s board of directors plans to publish its latest guidance in October.
Amongst others, developments are closely watched in Brussels as the airport company is relying on massive financial support from various German government sources to fund the massive cost increases caused by the delay. The case is also a welcome argument for Middle East carriers, which European airlines have long accused of being indirectly subsidized through cheap airport infrastructure.