The operator of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt has postponed the airport’s opening for more than two months as a result of safety findings gathered over the past few days.
Until now the Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH project leadership team in charge of the new airport’s opening had been convinced the June 3 planned opening date for the new airport could be met, taking into account all the technical requirements concerning safety.
However, following several crisis meetings over the past weekend, the project leadership team has concluded that the completion of and acceptance tests for certain safety-critical, fire-protection installations could no longer be completed by the planned opening date.
Accordingly, 27 days before the planned opening, the airport operator has decided to defer the airport’s opening to avoid any potential safety issues.
As part of its decision, Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH has decided to suspend the original plans to move air traffic from Berlin’s existing Schönefeld and Tegel airports to the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (the IATA code for which will be BER).
Moving of all the necessary airside and landside equipment to the new airport from Tegel and Schönefeld, when it occurs, is to be accomplished over the course of a single night. The move from of equipment from Tegel, in particular, will involve a massive logistical exercise which will see the closure to all other traffic of a major section of Berlin’s main peripheral autobahn for several hours.
Berlin’s new airport is on the same airfield site as today’s Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, but the terminal complex is some distance away from the much smaller Schönefeld terminal.
Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH has decided to postpone the opening of the new airport until after the peak summer vacation period, when Berlin’s airports are at their busiest.
According to the airport operator, the planned inauguration of the new airport on June 3 has recently become a race against time and 7,000 construction workers are currently working on Europe’s largest airport-construction site.
The airport Open Days on May 12 and 13, which were planned some time ago with the aim of letting the public see the new airport’s terminal and facilities, are not affected by the deferral of the opening date.
At the beginning of 2012, Flughafen Berlin-Schoenefeld GmbH (FBS), the operator of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, changed its name to Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH (FBB) to reflect that it would be the operator of the new airport on the Schönefeld site.
Air Berlin, which is going to have a major hub operation at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, has expressed great disappointment that the opening of the airport will be postponed.
The carrier says it planned all its summer 2012 infrastructural arrangements and flight schedules to be ready for the June 3 opening date.
“We have to work around the change of plan, which presents us with a huge challenge,” says Hartmut Mehdorn, CEO of Air Berlin. “It presents immense logistical problems for all involved and will also cause additional costs which have yet to be calculated.
According to Air Berlin, its new hub is conceived in such a way that the carrier’s aircraft fly to Berlin from different destinations in a system of six traffic waves each day. The airline’s passengers would thus able to connect to other Air Berlin flights very quickly and continue their journeys.
Air Berlin says the service pattern it has devised for the summer is exactly tailored to the operating conditions at BER and cannot simply be put into operation at Berlin-Tegel Airport.
The carrier notes that, as late as May 4, Air Berlin’s management board visited the new airport and was told that the airport operator and all other parties concerned were confident BER would go into operation on June 3 as planned.
Noting it is clear to Air Berlin that the safety of passengers must take utmost priority, Mehdorn adds: “We will now discuss the new situation with the BER management and bring our customers up to date as quickly as possible.”