COVID-19 May Close Berlin’s Old Schönefeld Airport – For Now

Berlin’s old Schönefeld Airport had escaped closure when the new Brandenburg Terminal 1 facility opened next door. However, the soviet era terminal could still be killed off due to the massive reduction in passenger numbers being experienced by the global aviation industry, at least temporarily.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Terminal 5, Closure
Berlin Brandenburg Airport Terminal 5 could face closure as low passenger numbers continue. Photo: Günter Wicker / BER

This year has proven to be challenging for the global aviation industry, with very few parties spared. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, passenger numbers around the globe have plummeted. While Europe did see some form of recovery at the end of summer, the second wave currently spreading across Europe has caused numbers to dive again.

Schönefeld hasn’t escaped closure

It seems that Schönefeld Airport, or Berlin Brandenburg Terminal 5 as it is now known, could indeed close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least temporarily. According to German-language newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, the terminal could be closed to cut costs.

The publication suggests that consolidation could save the airport millions. Earlier this year, the airport had considered closing the old Tegel Airport. However, no action was taken. It has since closed thanks to the opening of Terminal 1 at BER.

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According to the publications, the airport’s CEO wants to explore closing Terminal 5 from March 2021 when the next schedule change happens. He told the publication,

“In view of the very poor traffic development, we have to think about whether we really need T5 in 2021”

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Terminal 5, Closure
Terminal 5, formerly Shcönefeld Airport, is now used by low-cost carriers. Photo: Anikka Bauer / BER

Not a permanent change

Any closure of Terminal 5 could only be temporary, it seems. According to another German-language publication, BZ, an airport spokesperson said that T5 would be needed again once the number of passengers using the city’s airport increases again.

However, the decision likely wouldn’t be popular with the affected airlines. Currently, T5 is home to most low-cost carriers serving the city, including Ryanair and Wizz. easyJet has moved across to the new Terminal 1, which higher fees according to Berliner Morgenpost. Terminal 1 finally opened in late October, around nine years later than had initially been hoped. Ryanair’s boss previously said that easyJet wouldn’t leave the crisis as a true low-cost carrier.

How would a closure work?

One would assume that the low-cost carriers would be unhappy paying the full cost of Terminal 1 if they were forced to move. However, if they were offered a discount to appease them, this would surely irk the terminal’s new tenants paying the increased rate. Indeed, the arrival of LCC Ryanair in Frankfurt upset Lufthansa, following the promise of a discount to the Irish airline, according to Handelsblatt.

The only other option is that low-cost carriers refuse to fly to Berlin for the period of the closure. This is undoubtedly something that the airport’s operator is keen to avoid given the increasing importance of low-cost traffic in the current day and age.

Do you think Shönefeld should close? If so, should it be permanent? Let us know what you think and why in the comments.