Up and away: lift-off for Berlin Brandenburg Airport after nine-year delay

Airport beset by construction blunders to welcome first passengers next month

epa08695992 A participant walks in front of the baggage drop off area during a press tour at the Terminal T2 of upcoming BER Berlin Brandenburg Airport in Schoenefeld, Germany, 25 September 2020. The opening of BER airport is scheduled for 31 October 2020.  EPA/CLEMENS BILAN
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Berlin’s new international airport will finally open next month - but no celebration is expected because it will welcome travellers nearly a decade later than originally planned.

Construction of Berlin Brandenburg Airport began in 2006 and was supposed to be completed in 2011.

However, a series of construction blunders and technical issues pushed the opening date back by nine years, while the project ran billions of euros over budget.

Germans, admired for their efficiency around the world, viewed the airport as a national embarrassment.

They watched in disbelief as a litany of problems were revealed one after the other.

Mishaps included 90km of cable installed incorrectly, 4,000 wrongly-numbered doors, escalators that were too short and a faulty emergency line to the fire department.

Even the airport’s roof was double its authorised weight.

There was also a corruption scandal involving one of the airport’s former construction firms.

Setting an opening date of October 31, airport boss Engelbert Luetke-Daldrup admitted the project had made Berlin a “laughing stock” and said “there’s no reason to boast”.

"There is no big party. We are just going to open,” he said. "We German engineers were ashamed.”

On its first day, German carrier Lufthansa and British no-frills airline EasyJet will take off and land from Terminal 1.

A few shops and a tourism office will also open their doors, but other terminals will have to wait until next year to serve passengers due to a drop in demand because of coronavirus.

While there won’t be a celebration for the new airport, there will be a party for the one it is replacing.

Tegel, Berlin’s main airport, will shut on November 8 following the departure of an Air France flight to Paris.

Tegel welcomed more than 24 million passengers in 2019, making it the fourth busiest airport in Germany after Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf.

Beloved for its retro look, it was built in just 90 days by German workers with French and American Allied forces during the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948-1949.

Together with Tempelhof airport, which became a public park after it closed in 2008, Tegel supported the Allied airlift operations to supply the population of West Berlin with food.

Berlin will continue to be served by Schoenefeld airport, to the city’s south-east.