An airport for Berlin

Berlin Brandenburg Airport opens – decades of planning brought to a successful conclusion.

BER Airport just before opening.
BER Airport just before opening. dpa

The backstory to Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) can be followed all the way back to the 1960s. Even then the idea of expanding Schönefeld Airport had been pondered. However, it was only after German reunification that renewed calls were made for the airport to be expanded and turned into a competitive and modern hub. In 1992, no fewer than seven potential sites for the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport were assessed.

Final finishing touches are still being put on the airport.
Final finishing touches are still being put on the airport. dpa

Schönefeld site agreed in 1996

In May 1996, the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg agreed with Germany’s Federal Government on the Schönefeld site. This decision then took more concrete shape when the planning decision was officially taken in 2004; as well as expanding Schönefeld Airport, this also involved closing down Tempelhof and Tegel, the city’s two other airports. The ground-breaking ceremony took place in 2006, and the airport was scheduled to open in October 2011. In 2010, this forecast was adjusted to 3 June 2012. When there was talk of problems with the fire safety systems just weeks before the planned opening, it became clear that this deadline would not be met, either.

Thousands of passengers will pass through here in the future.
Thousands of passengers will pass through here in the future. dpa

And yet flights from the new airport had already been sold, and airlines had already meticulously planned their move from Tegel to Schönefeld. It was still hoped that the airport could open just a few months later. However, this second postponement was not to be the last. Construction of the new airport came under increasing criticism. And then, on top of the technical problems, steps needed to be taken to counter its deteriorating image. There was more and more talk not only of building errors but also of mismanagement and poor planning, and over the next few years a number of technical directors, CEOs and other senior executives all tried their luck.

Airport boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup.
Airport boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup. dpa

Lüthke Daldrup brings the mammoth project to an end

It was not until 2017, when the current airport director Engelbert Lütke Daldrup came onto the scene, that the corner was turned. Daldrup, who has a degree in urban planning and was formerly the state secretary in the Federal Building Ministry, has been getting the project back on track. He rolled out a “realistic timetable” and took responsibility for ensuring that the airport would finally be able to open in October 2020. He has been as good as his word: despite the many problems, a three-fold budget overrun, and the corona crisis, the time has come at last.