Berlin Brandenburg Airport To Open October 2020, Only Nine Years Late

Filed Under: Aviation

Airport construction projects are notoriously delayed, given just how complex they are. However, most airport projects aren’t as delayed as Berlin’s long overdue Brandenburg Airport (BER), where construction started in 2006, with the airport initially expected to open in March 2011.

That was the first of 10 planned opening dates that have been missed for the airport. Furthermore, the airport had an initial budget of €2.83 billion, but at this point the budget has increased to €7 billion.

So, what all went wrong? This post has a detailed rundown of everything that has happened, though to summarize:

  • In mid 2010 the construction company behind the airport went bankrupt, delaying the project
  • In mid 2012 huge issues were discovered with the smoke exhaust systems at the airport, delaying the opening (it was later discovered that bribes were involved here)
  • In early 2013 there were management changes at the airport, given the management’s team inability to get things done
  • In mid 2016 they had issues getting the transport certification needed to open
  • In 2017 airberlin went out of business, raising concerns for the airport, as this was supposed to be their largest airline, making them rethink part of the design

Suffice to say that this isn’t the shining example of German efficiency.

Well, the airport now has a new opening date. Berlin Brandenburg Airport is now expected to open on October 31, 2020, just under a year from now. The Airport Chief says that he is “certain” about the timeline, while the Supervisory Board Chairman says that there are still “shortcomings” that need to be addressed.

It would certainly be cool to see Berlin finally get a decent airport, though I remain skeptical. After all, we’re now approaching a dozen planned opening dates.

There are so many things that can still go wrong within the next year…

What do you think the odds are that Brandenburg Airport opens in October 2020?

Comments
  1. Ah yes, it is the yearly BER update time of the year.
    I am just beyond excited and trembling with anticipation.
    Can’t wait to try out the Baltia lounge before flying Global Ghana in my next life!

  2. Unrelated, Has anyone else had a problem transferring Amex MR points to Iberia Plus? I keep getting an error message that says the system is unavailable. I have spoken to Amex and they say the problem is not on their end. Very annoying. Any advice?

  3. Ms Merkel, tear down that monument of national shame! Tear it down immediately!

    As a reminder: The first plannings for the BER Airport started in 1991 (sic!!!), construction began in 2006 and it is still not finished. Meanwhile China has planned & built a new world-class mega-airport within 5 years. The irony is, Germany is still paying China hundreds of millions in ‘development aid’ yearly. If you look at this excuse of an airport, it should be the other way around.

  4. At this point, as a German taxpayer and living in Berlin, this isn’t even funny anymore.
    Berlin is known to be place where nothing is ever organized properly or works the way it’s supposed to.
    So in combination with the poor public transport, the public waste of money on prestige projects with no real purpose and the terrible situation in housing, education and almost everywhere else… this is just the icing on the cake.

    You will not find a single person in Berlin that believes this airport will open next year. Or the year after. But we shall see…

  5. TXL is a perfectly cromulent airport (though the original gates are better than the ex-AB, now mostly U2 LCC gates). I know certain blog authors have a *thing* for the LH FCL in FRA, but there’s something to be said for compact airport buildings like Terminal A at TXL. The part I actually like the least is no U/S-bahn access, which I guess will get fixed at BER… assuming it opens (skeptical BER watcher is still skeptical).

  6. @Max, to be fair, had Brandenberg been a Chinese project, none of the problems, including the faulty smoke evacuation system or the bribes would have prevented the airport from opening. In fact, the bribes wouldn’t come to light until someone needed to be blamed when people died the first time the faulty system was required, so it’s kind of disingenuous to claim Chinese superiority with these examples.

  7. Soooooo a hundred years of waiting for this masterpiece and if I understand correctly it will be further and more expensive to get to your hotel?

  8. Berlin already has the perfect airport just to the north west of the city centre in a place called Tegel. Just smarten it up a bit and it will easily last a good few more years yet. The express bus links to the city are unmatched in terms of speed and efficiency.

    It will last for a good few more years yet while the new white elephant down at Schoenfeld remains a playground for construction workers. I have only a couple more years to work and TXL is a regular destination and I just would like things to remain exactly as they are.

  9. @malthuss You are talking about other Chinese projects. I will admit that safety standards in China are generally lagging a little bit behind, though the gap is narrowing quickly. But for the new Beijing-Daxing Airport, they have worked with some of the best international experts and I can assure you it is raising the bar in all regards. And don’t forget that because of the BER delay, old Tegel and Schonefeld airports which are not up to current safety regulations are still running (with a special exemption). So they also pose a safety hazard.

  10. The airport is partly new, partly existing. It is Schoenefeld Airport of East Germany/DDR with a new terminal.

  11. I have lived in Germany for 9 years now and I must say the Germans are totally incompetent to get anything done correctly and in an efficient manner. Totally useless ! It doesn’t matter if it is road repairs or airports. They haven’t able to get anything done right since 1945 – and we saw how that turned out !!

  12. Think of the several mega airports which were (1.) conceived (2.) built (3.) switched on AFTER construction began on this hot mess. And then recall this is merely a modest, mid-sized project, in comparison to those mega airports.

    As an aside (but a very telling one), just look that the pic of the airport name emblazoned on the glass frontage. They couldn’t even decide on a settled name(?) Is it Berlin Airport? Is it Brandenburg Airport? Is it Willy Brandt Airport?! So they lump themselves with a messy agglomeration that is officially ‘Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt’. Yeah, just rolls off the tongue real smooth….

    If they can’t handle basic semantics at the level of a 6th grade student, how on earth did we expect them to navigate complex building and engineering tasks? That clunky name alone was not so much a name, but a warning sign!

  13. I was actually booked on a flight into this airport in December of 2012. It was of course redirected to TXL a couple months before my travel dates. But I remember the conference organizers hyping how much we were all going to like the new airport. Hard to believe it still isn’t open. And we thought DIA was a mess!

  14. Shock horror – oppressive regimes that can use almost-slave labour and don’t need to respect human rights, planning laws or environmental protections tend to build major projects more efficiently than liberal democracies do. Who would have thought…

  15. @mallthus

    To be fair, Berlin is ALL about German business corruption, German business failure, German engineering incompetence, German building incompetence, German gov’t oversight failure.

    The Chinese had nothing to do with this hot mess and it’s massively unfair to tarnish them (not that they are always faultless in their own projects). People who try to distract from their own problems by flinging mud at others are disingenuous and unimpressive human beings.

    To take this crazy Berlin Airport apologist argument to its logical conclusion is like saying: Mega Chinese airports are corruptly built and unsafe. But (small) Berlin Airport is also corruptly built and unsafe, so we are very proud to have it delayed and shut down to demonstrate we are more clever and honest than Chinese(!)

  16. @Callum

    And to ignore that very same corruption in liberal democracies is just ‘an inconvenient truth’, I suppose?

  17. Nein, the Berlin City Palace would have long been restored and reopened before this Airport will ever be opened. Heck if they had demolished and rebuild the Airport Building the Airport would have been opened earlier

  18. You neglected to mention political interference and the board controlling construction making decisons to change the layout of the airport and increase the shopping area for example which led to complicated design changes during construction for some aspects and after the installation of services for others.

    Those late changes then cause all sorts of issues such as with the fire and other essential systems. A news article I read a few months ago about the mess basically said if they had kept to the original design it would have opened some time ago

  19. Was booked to fly from BER in August 2012 and I flew out of SXF which was already showing its age and overcrowded. The BER is not ready…yet! Will I ever board a flight to/from BER – i don’t know.

  20. I start to believe that the airport isn’t even supposed to be finished ever. It would fit that flight shaming nonsense that is going on the Germany. I am sure the Green Party wants it gone.

  21. Nein, the Berlin City Palace would have long been restored and reopened before this Airport will ever be opened. Heck if they had demolished and rebuild the Airport Building the Airport would have been opened earlier

  22. Unlike others, I expect the airport (i.e. the terminal, because it’s only a new terminal for SXF) to open around this time … or any time before the next elections, for political reasons.

    But: Like any other political project in Germany, it will be very disfunctional, because of poor planning. So expect to arrive very early, long walks, severe shortage of critical facilities (e.g. toilets) and a further delayed opening of non-essential parts such as lounges.

  23. The north may be inefficient. But the south where the heart and economic hubs of Germany are, are the epitome of German efficiency. It is no myth and there’s a reason they dominate the worldwide car market.

  24. Everything went wrong with the airport construction but there were never any real and legitimate problems that prevented it from opening. It was kafkaesque Bureaucracy. The emergency smoke vent system didn’t meet the minute and exact arbitrary fire codes set by busy bodies but it functioned well and the open spaces terminal already was very fire resistant. The airport developers even said they would hire 500 fire fighters and station them in the terminal but the bureaucrats wouldn’t budge. There is nothing rational about this debacle.

  25. There are no semantic issues there John. Berlin is a city state entirely within the state of Brandenburg, so it includes both in the title as geographical descriptors and is named after Willy Brandt.

    It will be a shame when Tegel goes. Scruffy, hardly any facilities, but so quick to get through in either direction and a 15 min taxi ride of less than €20 to my favourite Berlin hotel.

  26. Just a reminder:
    BER is in fact – not – a new airport.
    It´s simply an existing airport (SXF) with a new terminal and reconfigured runway/taxiway system.
    … and the worst part is: due to political interference (ideologically motivated – not economically) alternative airports were (THF) and will (TXL) be closed.
    Even when “SXF new” aka BER will be operational the mess is not over due to be running at capacity from day one (+6 months) as TXL will be closed by then …

    Aside from that I am confident that the proposed opening will indeed happen this time by the published date although I am not sure whether it will be fully operational …

  27. Without a big carrier there, one must really question whether it’s needed. Yes TXL is ancient and very unattractive, but for narrow body short haul flights to major hubs, it works. I’ve gone through TXL a couple of times and as unattractive as the place is, there is something to be said for leaving the plane, entering through immigration, grabbing bags at that gate and being outside within 15-20 minutes of landing. I don’t know of any other international airport to a major city that offers that.

    Of course if there were ever to be another major airline try to hub out of there, a new airport would be best. But seriously, who will do long haul flights out of there? AB was the last one. LH might have a few, but more of a gesture than anything really.

    As for German efficiency – yeah that’s a tale. After taking many trains in Germany I had zero on time. The Italian and Spanish trains all are precisely on time. German trains no so much. This airport is really an embarrassment as I don’t think any other airport in modern times has stretched this far. Heck even the incredibly corrupt Louisiana and New Orleans governments were able to build a stunning new airport in less time. (I’m still shocked they did this so quickly.)

  28. I went through TXL approx a dozen times. I hated each time. A/C does not work sufficiently in summer, safety inspections are overcrowded as the space is too limited. In winter it seems overheated (too many people waiting). Yes, upon arrival you are swiftly in and out. But I prefer to walk a few more meters vis-a-vis that ancient facility…
    TXL might be OK for narrow body intra-Europe flights. But as the capital of Germany the city needs more long-distance capacity. So I hope BER will finally provide that. But as Germans hate that debacle we all expect maaaaaaany negative news around BER once it is open. After a year or so it will be “just in operation”… This is how I see Germany works on high-profile projects.

    As for beaucracy: Berlin is pretty poor in organization as a state/city.
    And tainted by political alligiance on top of it.

  29. TXL (in the original A gates) is a fantastic airport. It’s takes minutes to get through security and only a few steps to the plane. It takes only 15-20 minutes to the centre of town. The design is old, but almost “retro-chic” at this point. The main problem is the crappy temporary terminal built for AB – that could have been rectified by building a more permanent structure.

    It’s criminal that they are planning on closing TXL in favour of this white elephant that is so much further out of town.

  30. @Kerry how in the hell someone could call an Airport like TXL “fantastic” is beyond me. If you really think it “takes minutes to get through security” you have been very lucky so far and clearly never been to Terminal C.
    When did it ever take 15 Minutes “to town”? Are you usually taking a helicopter “to town”?

    TXL is a crap airport, let’s not get it twisted. It’s more conveniently located than BER and it’s quite small, but that’s about all the positives I can find.

  31. Politicians are idiots. They should have gone into the files and reused Munich airport’s blueprints. Just copy terminal 2.

  32. @Marina,

    As I clearly stated I was referring to terminal A, and not to terminal C, the nightmarish “temporary” structure built to house Air Berlin flights. I cannot think of an airport terminal that is much quicker at getting you from curbside to aircraft (and vice versa) than TXL terminal A.

    And yes, it has never taken me longer than 20 minutes to get to either Mitte or Zoo Station areas, and no I don’t use a helicopter. So I do think the original A terminal is fantastic from a functionality and location point of view.

    Clearly you’ve been very unlucky with traffic and security conditions when flying in and out of there, so you must be looking forward to driving out to Schönefeld every time you fly from Berlin.

  33. There was talk of a Terminal 2 being built because they now believe that Brandenburg is too small to cope with the increase in the number of passengers travelling to Berlin.

  34. John – What on Earth are you going on about? Not only have I not even mentioned corruption (corruption doesn’t help China – oppression does…), I’ve made no claims that liberal democracies are less corrupt (it seems somewhat obvious that they are indeed less corrupt, but I haven’t researched it so I won’t claim it).

    It’s interesting how nutters who love defending dictatorships and strongmen are never able to come up with a coherent argument about it!

  35. @Callum

    “corruption doesn’t help China – oppression does….”

    I’m not even touching your warped line of reasoning. Not now. Not in a million years. Do engage your grey matter before bashing the keyboard in riposte……

  36. Next time Berlin wants to do an airport ‘right’, swallow your Germanic pride and ask the Singaporeans for help/advice/assistance….just ask them to do everything! You will instantly get the Northern hemisphere’s best airport. Guaranteed.

  37. 100% chance of the airport *NOT* opening in Oct 2020. No way, no how.

    @ChrisC: Reconfiguring a building, especially one which is UNUSED shouldn’t add 10+ years to a project. I worked at a hospital during a major renovation/addition to the building where our department got moved 3 times. The project took 3 years total. Need I remind you that this was for a hospital which had patients with complex medical needs 24/7?

  38. John – Oh that old chestnut: “I could tell you exactly why I’m right, and I have the time (hence why I’m responding at all), but I choose not to”. How convincing…

  39. @John:

    Here’s what you said:

    “To be fair, Berlin is ALL about German business corruption, German business failure, German engineering incompetence, German building incompetence, German gov’t oversight failure.”

    The only failure is your posting tbh

  40. I work for a major German concern.
    I dont know what happened to world business ethics, but corruption and bribes are
    Constant. We have shady contracts, objectionable ethics and reckless overspending.
    Everybody wants their quick pie and hefty bonus.
    The same as the US, UK and many other countries.

    The reason that made the West so powerful was not just technical know-how, but small corruption rates.
    Corruption , even if subtle, destroys societies and morality.

  41. Berlin TXL is old and doesnt represent a world class city.

    Personally I love Tempelhof, it is a work of history. Heck, my favorite book starts in the halls of that airport!

    BER opening shouldnt mean TXL should be closed. World cities have two or more airports.
    Lufthansa should move in to BER and free up some space in Frankfurt.
    And a replacement for Air Berlin should come pronto.

  42. I just read the whole litany of commentaries.

    Did anyone mention all the communists, climate, and greens objections?
    Or that X bird wouldnt feed in peace or that the CO2 would as high as Venus?

    @Pauline. You need to have strict Singapore discipline to shut up the groups I mentioned above.
    Singapore style Caning is needed in the northern Hemisphere.

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