After nine years of scheduled, cancelled and re-scheduled would-be-inaugurations, Berlin’s new airport, named after former Federal Chancellor and Mayor of Berlin Willy Brandt, at long last started operations on Saturday, 31 October. Many Germans were no longer certain they would ever see this day.
After the three stakeholders, the city of Berlin, the state of Brandenburg and the Federal Government had chosen Schönefeld on the outskirts of Berlin in 1996 as the location for what is expected to become Germany’s third busiest airport (after Frankfurt and Munich), it took almost a decade for works to begin in 2006. The first missed target date for the official opening was October 2011, and another six would follow . Because of technical mismanagement, non-compliance with fire security regulations, and substandard work by some of the contractors in general. In the meantime, the estimated overall cost kept multiplying. For Germany, proud of its reputation for precision engineering and work efficiency, the airport had become something of a national embarrassment.
But on this last Saturday of October 2020, this seemingly never-ending saga finally came to a close with the first passenger flights touching ground at BER, the new airport’s international code. While all airline operations in Berlin will be moved to the new location over the next few days, the old airport of Berlin-Tegel which has served the city and the region for almost 50 years, will close for good. It will see its last flight on 7 November. Many Berliners had developed a peculiar emotional attachment to the technically outdated and chronically overcrowded facility, and will certainly miss it for its convenient location right in the city. But, as they say: Out with old, in with the new…