Berlin’s New Airport Is Still On Track To Open In October

Berlin’s new airport will be opening at the end of October 2020. Don’t roll your eyes. This has come from the horse’s mouth. The head of the supervisory board of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport company told a business breakfast in Berlin yesterday that there were still things to do but that the October 31 opening date is locked in.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport has an opening date of October 31, 2020. Photo: Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

You’d normally take this as a fairly definitive confirmation that something was going to happen. But this is Berlin Brandenburg, an airport so mired in dysfunction, delays and cost overruns that it is standing joke around the world.

Berlin’s new airport a long-standing global joke

In fact, I heard a funny gag on The Layover podcast the other day about what would happen first; the 737 MAX would get back into the air or Berlin Airport would open?

The avgeeks on the podcast were putting their money on the MAX. Normally, Boeing might say, “Hey, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Instead, it’s probably more like, “Oh no, we’re being measured against BER.” But at least Boeing came out ahead.

The airport has been under construction for 14 years. Photo: Berlin Brandenburg Airport

But back to the business breakfast. It was at the Capital Club, a place that describes itself as somewhere that “entrepreneurs and decision makers meet to socialize and to do networking.”

Speaking at the breakfast was Rainer Bretschneider, the head of the supervisory board. The Berliner Morgenpost reported on the story. The October 31 opening date has been bandied around for a few months now. The same newspaper reported this in November last year. It noted it was the first firm opening date since 2012.

Airport almost finished, but not quite

The airport was originally planned to open in 2011. Construction has been underway for 14 years. Unfortunately, the new airport’s reputation is so tarnished that most people consider the October date sticking as likely as say, the MAX getting back into the air soon or Cathay Pacific reporting a profit this year.

Mr. Bretschneider said much of the work at Berlin Brandenburg was finished. He said;

“Things work, if you flip the switch, the pump starts and the air flows in the right direction.”

The airport is notorious for cost overruns, delays, and corruption. Photo: Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

Construction should be finished at the end of this month. But, as Mr. Bretschneider warns, there are lots of little things still to do, issues with the wiring and cabling to be remedied, and some outstanding approvals from the TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein or the Technical Inspection Association).

Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke is optimistic the October date will stick – at least publicly. Other German politicians are less confident. Antje Kapek of the Greens Party has said;

“There have already been some announcements, and the current schedule is also very ambitious, so skepticism is still the order of the day.”

Even when open, imagine the transition from Tegal

Let’s be optimistic here and assume everything is good to go at the end of October. Flights won’t start that day. Everything has to be moved over from Tegel. Flights for passengers are expected to start a few days later. By mid-November, there should be no more airlines operating out of Tegal. At least, that’s the plan.

Whether Berlin Brandenburg opens in October or a bit down the track, the reality is the airport is finally near completion. It’s just that after so long and so many false promises, no-one quite believes it is nearly done.

And of course, we haven’t even begun to explore the logistical nightmare of transferring everything from Tegal to Brandenburg