The airport that came in from the cold – and then went out again

the airport that came in from the cold and then went out again scaled

It didn’t happen in 2011, 2012 nor in any year up to and including 2019.

But in 2020, Berlin Brandenburg airport finally opened after a construction performance of implausible incompetence.

I paid £57 for the privilege of being on the first flight: easyJet’s departure to Gatwick, just six hours into November. Yet even before the end of the month, the airport’s bosses said the expansion had gone into reverse.

Berlin Brandenburg (let’s just call it BER – everyone else does) is an unusual one. It is basically a southward expansion of the old East Berlin airport, Schonefeld. The old terminal here is recommended for anyone keen to experience a frisson of Cold War architecture. And when BER opened, the DDR hub was not bulldozed as you might have expected.

Instead, it was kept alive to meet the demand for flights from Europe’s biggest budget airline, Ryanair (which no doubt negotiated some highly favourable terms).

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And the runway along which jets belonging to Interflug (the East German airline) used to roar was also kept in service – with a twin created on the other side of the BER terminal complex.

So far, so coherent. But the hoped-for acceleration of aviation failed to materialise. And a few hours before November reached its bitter end, BER reported passenger figures just one-tenth of the expected numbers.

With the German Airport Association predicting one-third of passenger numbers in the whole of 2021 compared with 2019, the communique described the coronavirus pandemic as “a serious turning point in the aviation industry” and revealed that the Soviet-era terminal would close after all – but only for a year.

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