Berlin Brandenburg Airport opening date postponed – till March 2013

The new Berlin Brandenburg (Willie Brandt) airport will not now open till March 2013.  It had been due to open in June 2012, and was postponed recently until August 2012.  The problem appears be the fire safety system. The airport can only commence operations with a fully automated fire safety and control system as originally planned, and the interim solution of a partly automated system will not be allowed. This will take until December 2012. In addition, the risk would be too high to move the airport in winter due to adverse weather leading to operational restrictions.  The Managing Director Operations, responsible for the construction of the airport, will have to leave the company. Keeping open the two older Berlin airports that this one will replace will cost about €15 million a month.

Berlin airport opening delayed to March 2013

The capital’s long-awaited new airport will replace Tegel and Schoenefeld airports, both dating from the Cold War era. Just weeks before its opening date the operators said the Berlin-Brandenburg airport would not be ready in time.

“It looks like March 2013,” government sources told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

The opening of what will be Germany’s third largest airport after Frankfurt and Munich has been postponed once already.

Keeping open the two older airports will cost about 15 million euros a month and airlines that have been selling tickets for flights from Berlin-Brandenburg for months face additional costs.

The €2.5 billion new airport initially aims to attract up to 27 million passengers a year, making it about half the size of Germany’s main airport in Frankfurt and less than a third the size of the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta.

Bild newspaper earlier cited a letter from a building regulation agency to the new airport’s technical chief, Manfred Koertgen, warning that any interim safety measures would not be enough to secure approval.

“We won’t be able to get a fully automatic system in place that quickly. That rules out an opening this year,” an airport official told the paper.

It would then make most sense to open the airport when airlines introduce their summer 2013 flight plan from end-March next year, the official quoted by Bild said.

A spokesman for the airport declined to comment but noted that the Berlin-Brandenburg supervisory board was meeting later on Wednesday. “We expect that the board meeting will result in a time plan,” he said.

One of the new airport’s first challenges was to have been handling travellers going to the Euro soccer championship next month in Poland and Ukraine.

A spokesman for national carrier Lufthansa said: “The airport should only be opened if stable and safe flight operations can be provided. It would be a bigger catastrophe if a new date was named now that would have to be postponed again.”

Germany’s second largest carrier, Air Berlin, said it expected a decision during the day. CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said on Tuesday it made sense for the airport opening to coincide with the start of the winter schedule.






Berlin Brandenburg Airport opening date postponed – till March 2013

Publication date: 17 May 2012
Author: Berlin Brandenburg Airport

At its meeting yesterday, the Supervisory Board of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH discussed the reasons for postponing the opening date as well as the next steps to be taken to complete Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt. The Board reached the following decisions:

  • The opening date of the airport will be postponed to 17 March 2013
  • Dr. Manfred Körtgen, Managing Director for Operations and Construction, will leave the company
  • The contract with Planungsgemeinschaft Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg International (pg bbi), the consortium responsible for project management and site supervision, will be terminated.
Artist's impression of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport
Artist’s impression of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Fully-automated fire safety systems in place by December 2012

The airport company announced on 8 May 2012 that the opening date of 3 June 2012 would need to be postponed since completion of the safety systems, and their subsequent structural approval, could no longer be accomplished by the planned opening date. As reported, the BER planners had decided to complete a partially automated version of the fire protection and control system by 3 June as a transitional solution, and to introduce a fully-automated system over the following months.

Following a letter of 9 May from the Building Standards Authority to the airport operating company, however, this time-saving option was no longer viable. This was subsequently reported to the Supervisory Board by BER planners. The letter stated: “A further application for use of the terminal with interim measures, such as a man-machine interface, will not be successful.” In view of this statement from the authorities, the airport can only commence operations with a fully automated fire safety and control system as originally planned. According to the BER planners, pending work on the fire safety and control system, and operational ramp-up of its central component – so-called System 14 – will take until December 2012.

Three months for inspections and trial runs – move to new airport not advisable in winter

The new timeline is set to minimise the risk that the time available for inspections, approvals and certifications could potentially be insufficient. In addition, the risk would be too high to move the airport in winter due to adverse weather leading to operational restrictions. The Supervisory Board therefore followed the recommendation of the management and decided that all construction work should be completed first before the remaining necessary steps are taken that will allow the airport to commence operations. These steps entail the so-called impact and complex inspection by certified experts, subsequent inspection by the Building Standards Authority, further trial runs, designation of the airport site as a security area, and delivery of goods to storage facilities, shops and restaurants.

Criticism of risk management

In the course of the Supervisory Board meeting, criticism was levelled at the BER planners’ risk management. The Board concluded that the risks to a timely opening posed by the late completion of the ambitious fire safety and control system had been underestimated. The situation had become more and more challenging as some construction works were behind schedule, while planning, scheduled building works, staff training and trial runs continued simultaneously. Some scenarios could therefore not be tested as planned during the trial runs. Interruptions to trial runs occurred repeatedly as a result of construction work (e.g. due to electricity being used by construction workers which resulted in check-in islands not running properly). A further issue was the lack of reliability of certain systems, particularly in parts of the data technology and safety equipment (e.g. WLAN networks, fire-alarm system, door controls).


During the discussions about the reasons for postponing the opening date, the decision was reached that the Managing Director Operations/BBI, Dr. Manfred Körtgen, will have to leave the company. Körtgen joined the airport company in 2004 as Director of BBI Planning and Construction. He was head of the planning team and was responsible for the setting up the team responsible for the construction of the new airport. From September 2008, as Managing Director Operations/BBI, he was in charge of the construction of Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Until a new Managing Director Operations/BBI joins the company, the CEO Professor Rainer Schwarz will be temporarily in charge of the department.

At the same time the Supervisory Board decided to terminate the contract with pg bbi. pg bbi, which is the project management company and in charge of site supervision, and comprises J.S.K. International Architekten und Ingenieure GmbH and gmp Generalplanungsgesellschaft mbH.