Berlin’s Schönefeld airport ‘to stay open’ as Brandenburg airport (at huge expense) not ready till 2015 at the earliest

Berlin’s old Schönefeld airport is likely to remain open as a destination for budget airlines despite a multi-billion airport being built next to it, at Berlin Brandenburg (BER), as the new international hub is too small.  It is the latest in a long line of setbacks to hit the BER, which is over budget and behind time. It will have two runways.  It is expected to open in 2015 at the earliest.  Officially the cost of the airport is €4.3 billion, though initial cost estimates were €1.2 and it could cost up to €6 billion. Despite the huge cost, the airport will only have a capacity of 27 million passengers a year, so its ageing neighbour, Schönefeld, will need to stay open.  The original plan had been for Schönefeld, which caters for budget airlines, to merge with BER.  Keeping Schönefeld in operation would increase capacity by 7.5 million passengers a year and avoid further costs of building a new terminal. Earlier it had been expected that BER  could be partly in use in 2014, with 10 planes per day, but that will not happen.  The airport was initially intended to open in 2010 but the multiple delays have been due to difficulties concerning fire safety, the smoke exhaust systems and construction errors.  Air Berlin is suing BER for damages due to the much delayed opening.  


Berlin's Schönefeld airport 'to stay open'

The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Photo: DPA

Berlin’s Schönefeld airport ‘to stay open’

13 Feb 2014  (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

Berlin’s old Schönefeld airport is likely to remain open as a destination for budget airlines despite a multi-billion airport being built next to it, as the new international hub is too small.

It is the latest in a long line of setbacks to hit the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (BER) which is over budget and behind time. It is expected to open in 2015 at the earliest. Officially the cost of the airport is €4.3 billion.

Despite the huge cost, the airport will only have a capacity of 27 million passengers a year, which means that its ageing neighbour, Schönefeld, will need to stay open.

London’s Heathrow deals with 70 million passengers a year, while Frankfurt-am-Main takes 58 million.

The original plan had been for Schönefeld, which caters for budget airlines, to merge with BER.

But on Wednesday BER airport spokesman Ralf Kunkel said keeping Schönefeld open to deal with capacity problems was an “option which we’re looking at”.

The airport’s chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn has reportedly already brought the idea to the airport’s supervisory board.

Keeping Schönefeld in operation would increase capacity by 7.5 million passengers a year and avoid further costs of building a new terminal.

The farce around BER airport appeared to reach its peak in January when it emerged Mehdorn would be facing himself in a court case.

Berlin airport is facing compensation claims issued by Air Berlin for the airport’s delay – filed when Mehdorn was CEO of the airline.

READ MORE: Future of Berlin Airlift site hangs in balance . .





Top manager faces himself in court

16 Jan 2014 (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

It sounds like a delicious farce – Hartmut Mehdorn, boss of Berlin’s delayed international airport is facing compensation claims issued by Air Berlin – filed when the CEO of the airline was… Hartmut Mehdorn.

Sadly there is little likelihood of Mehdorn running from one side of the courtroom to another, to defend Berlin’s long-delayed international airport, BER, and then lead the attack for Air Berlin, although with his reputation for tough talking such a spectacle would be highly entertaining.

The arguments are all being made by lawyers, as Air Berlin sues BER for damages connected with the still-delayed opening, which the airline says has cost it €48 million.

Mehdorn is not expected to be in court at all.

A biography in the business magazine Wirtschaftswoche says Mehdorn was born to German parents in Poland in 1942, but the family soon moved to Berlin and then Bavaria, where his father founded a plastics factory in 1948.

He studied machine engineering in Berlin in the early 1960s. He married a French woman Héléne in 1973, with whom he has three children. His career was largely aircraft-focused, including a five-year stint on the board of the Airbus Holding.

Mehdorn first rose to international prominence when in 1999 he was appointed head of the board of Deutsche Bahn, with the mission to prepare the colossus for partial privatization.

The no-nonsense manager went about significantly reducing the workforce, cutting tens of thousands of jobs and slashing expenditure.

But as the global recession hit in 2008 and melted what little public and political support for the privatization there had been, the idea was abandoned, leaving a much slimmer Bahn arguably struggling to cope.

Mehdorn’s departure in the following year was sparked by a surveillance scandal at Deutsche Bahn which covered more than half its staff between 2002 and 2003. He and four other board members stepped down in the wake of the outrage.

Since the failed privatization and his departure, the emphasis has been on recruiting again, with 10,000 new jobs scheduled for last year.

Mehdorn’s name is still invoked when problems connected with low staffing or reduced investment arise – such as last year’s crisis at Mainz station which was closed due to lack of signalling staff.

A couple of years after leaving the Bahn, Mehdorn joined Air Berlin, an airline founded by his friend Joachim Hunold, as temporary CEO.

He initiated what many regarded as a severe savings programme and got spending under control at the struggling airline – but provoked strikes by pilots dismayed at poor pay.

Despite initially promising to stay for at least 18 months, he left in January 2013after just 16 months, and two months after that, took over the reins of BER, the hugely troubled Berlin airport.

His determination, optimism and intractable nature was perfectly illustrated in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine last June. When asked about a report suggesting there were tens of thousands of problems with the airport, he said most of them were unimportant and could be fixed easily.

And when questioned about whether the notoriously problematic smoke and fire detection systems, largely blamed for the airport’s delay, left people at risk of burning or suffocating, he said: “The danger of drowning is greater. The sprinkler system has been extensively fitted. Whoever lights just a cigarette will be completely soaked.”

When passengers will get the chance to test this promise remains almost completely open, with a date for BER’s operating start still undecided.





Berlin airport’s 2014 opening cancelled again

8 Jan 2014 (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

Berlin’s much-delayed international airport will not open this year, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday, dispelling hopes the troubled venture could at least partially begin flights in 2014.

“It will, de facto, be such that the airport no longer can be opened in 2014,” mayor Klaus Wowereit said who is also head of the airport’s supervisory board.

Airport chief Hartmut Mehdorn had hoped for part of BER airport’s infrastructure to be in use in March this year, with the aim of allowing the arrival and departure of 10 planes a day.

But Wowereit’s announcement on Tuesday has dispelled those hopes and added another embarrassing chapter to the airport’s short but troubled history.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport was set for a fanfare opening in June 2012  with posters dotted around the capital announcing the opening date, and international airlines including it in their schedules.

But multiple delays due to difficulties concerning fire safety, the smoke exhaust systems and construction errors have proven a blow to the capital’s image.

As one of Germany’s biggest construction projects, it has also dented Wowereit’s popularity amid claims of incompetence and having underestimated the problems linked to the plan.

Initial cost estimates of €1.2 billion have long been ditched, and the latest estimate for the project is now around €6 billion.

The new airport is designed to cater for air passengers currently using Berlin’s two other airports, Schönefeld and Tegel.

READ MORE: Berlin airport ‘needs another €1.1 billion’



Berlin airport 'needs another €1.1 billion'

Will it ever open? Photo: DPA

Berlin airport ‘needs another €1.1 billion’

4 Nov 2013 (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

The cost of Berlin’s much-delayed BER airport has rocketed by another €1.1 billion, bringing the expected bill to nearly €6 billion – three times the initial estimate, it was reported on Friday.

A confidential report from the company leading the enormous project, WSP/CBP, showed that the project which started out as a prestige endeavour, yet rapidly turned into a farce, could only be finished with a cash injection of €1.1 billion.

Bild newspaper said it had seen the report listing key areas in need of a financial boost as being the building and planning section of the project, as well as sound insulation. Construction costs of the still-unfinished international hub have been climbing steadily since it began in 2006.

Where the additional money would come from was unclear, said airport bosses. It was likely, Bild said, that it would come from public funding.

Managers received an extra €1.2 billion just a year ago, to continue construction. This pushed the cost up to €4.6 billion. The new demand for €1.1 billion would shove this total to €5.7 billion.

It is thought that the airport should finally open towards the end of 2014, or beginning of 2015, years behind schedule.

READ MORE: Sparks (not planes) fly over Berlin’s airport




Sparks (not planes) fly over Berlin’s airport

24 Oct 2013 (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

The technical director of Berlin’s embarrassingly delayed airport is to leave his position in favour of a more modest role heading an energy and water supply company, it emerged on Wednesday.

The move follows months of in-house wrangling among project bosses.

Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the airport’s supervisory board had come to a “mutual agreement” with technical director Horst Amann, who was head-hunted for the role in June of 2012 but failed to kick-start the ailing project.

The cost of the delayed airport is now estimated at €5 billion.

Amann was chosen for the job because of his experience building Frankfurt airport. But he developed a stormy relationship with Berlin airport chief Hartmut Mehdorn, who reportedly wrote to Wowereit in September to demand Amann’s resignation.

Amann in turn accused Mehdorn of aggressiveness and misconduct.

Wowereit expressed disappointment that the airport had suffered further delays and that the opening date proposed by Amann was the fourth to pass without any sign of the project nearing completion.

However, he stressed that Amann had taken the job under difficult circumstances and had – by listing and categorizing some 60,000 problems with the project – formed a basis upon which subsequent decisions could be made.

After four opening day flops, members of the airport’s supervisory board are now shying away from naming a new date.

“We will only choose a date when it’s absolutely clear that things are well on their way and that nothing more can go wrong,” Wowereit said.

Berlin’s mayor has been the acting head of the airport’s supervisory board since Brandenburg’s former governor Matthias Platzeck stepped down from the role in August.

A replacement for Amann is not being sought and it is understood that Mehdorn will take over a number of his responsibilities.

The company Amann is to head currently supplies Berlin’s two existing airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, with energy and water. The new Berlin-Brandenburg airport is supposedly to be added to his company’s portfolio once – or if – it opens.

READ MORE: Even Berlin airport’s partial opening delayed



Even Berlin airport's partial opening delayed

Photo: DPA

Even Berlin airport’s partial opening delayed

19 Jul 2013   (The Local – Germany’s news in English)

Concern is rising in Berlin that the much-delayed and over-budget BER new international airport could be even later than expected after an expected partial opening seemed likely to be put back by several months.

Project manager Hartmut Mehdorn had announced plans to bring at least a part of the huge new airport into service at the end of this year as a form of test, an important political step forward, the Tagesspiegel reported on Friday.

But even this now is considered unlikely, the paper said, prompting criticism of Mehdorn from city politicians. “The airport manager is obviously not doing the work he is supposed to be doing – namely turning a huge mess into a working company,” said Martin Delius, Berlin state MP for the Pirate Party and chairman of the BER investigative committee.

The north pier of the airport was planned to start handling planes this December – but this can only happen after a six-week testing period. And it seems now that the building authorities will only give permission for that period to begin at the start of 2014, which means any partial opening would only be feasible in spring.

The latest timetable is to have the entire airport open for business towards the end of 2014 or in early 2015.

The airport, initially expected to cost around €1.2 billion, is now expected to cost more in the region of €5 billion. Maintenance and security for the half-built building is said to be costing up to €50 million a month, while the uncertainty regarding its opening also impacts on the city’s Tegel airport, the paper said.

It was due to be closed in 2011 – when BER was due to start operating – but is now working over-capacity.

The Local/hc







Berlin Brandenburg airport may be able to open for 10 flights per day by April 2014

18.8.2013      .A board overseeing the completion of Berlin’s new Brandenburg airport – subject to a string of delays – has backed a plan for its opening early next year. However, initial operations would be limited to just 10 flights, and some 1,500 passengers, per day. Airlines Air Germania and Condor set to be the first to operate there, and even that needs work on the northern wing of the airport to be completed. This might happen by March or April 2014.  An exact timetable would need to be confirmed in the next few months.The new airport has been a costly embarrassment, subject to a series of cost overruns and delays to its opening, chiefly because of a faulty fire safety system. It was originally due to open October 2011. That date was changed to June 2012, and subsequently to March 2013 and later to October 2013. It was planned to replace Berlin’s 3 smaller airports, Tegel, Schönfeld and the already-closed Tempelhof. The airport’s cost  has risen from €2.4 billion to €4.3 billion. In July there was further controversy as flight paths were found not to have been checked for their environmental impact, and will endanger wildlife and even Berlin’s water supply.     . 

Catalogue of delays and problems for the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (Willy-Brandt)

April 9, 2013      Brandenburg (Willy Brandt) airport has become a symbol of how, even for the remarkably technologically successful Germans, things can go horribly wrong. There is currently no opening date set. It has a range of problems, many caused by such complicated and advanced computer systems and technologies, that engineers cannot work out how to fix them. Thousands of light bulbs illuminate the gigantic main terminal and the car park 24 hours per day, which is a massive cost and waste of energy; officials cannot work out how to turn them off as the computer system that’s so sophisticated it’s almost impossible to operate. Every day, an empty commuter train rolls to the unfinished airport over an 8 km stretch to keep the newly-laid tracks from getting rusty – more waste. Several escalators need to be rebuilt because they were too short; and dozen of tiles were already broken before a single airport passenger ever stepped on them. Then there are the fire system problems – with some technology that is so advanced that technicians can’t work out what’s wrong with it.     Click here to view full story…

Berlin Airport CEO Rainer Schwarz “dismissed” as opening delayed indefinitely

17 Jan 2013   Berlin Brandenburg Airport’s CEO Rainer Schwarz has been dismissed from his role “with immediate effect”.  He has been CEO since 2006. The opening of the airport is now delayed indefinitely, with no date given. This has caused great embarrassment for Berlin’s authorities.  Originally due to open in June 2012, this date was first delayed until March 17, 2013, when problems with the airport’s fire safety systems were discovered. In October 2012 it was announced that the opening would be October 27, 2013. But now fire problems are still on-going and October is no longer realistic, and even setting a new date is at least several months away. At its meeting on January 16, the board and appointed as its new chairman, Matthias Platzeck, Prime Minister of the State of Brandenburg. He will succeed Klaus Wowereit, mayor of Berlin, who held this position since 2001.  The board said that in future a triumvirate would head the company. 

Further fire safety problems at Berlin Brandenburg Airport mean it cannot open in October, so delayed till unknown date in 2014

January 8, 2013     Berlin’s Brandenburg airport was initially due to open in June 2012. It has problems with fire safety, smoke extraction system, and fresh air supply in the event of fire. Therefore the opening was put off till October 2013. It has now been announced that the airport will now open on an unknown date in 2014. Based on the previous timetable, construction work was due to be completed by May 2013 to allow a 5-month period for trial operations before the official opening. There may be other technical problems as well, such as on baggage handling. When completed, the airport will take over from the ageing Tegel and Schoenefeld airports. It is expected to be able to eventually handle up to 27 million passengers a year, but this figure has been reduced from the initial figure of 45 million. The cost of the project has risen, from an estimated £1.6 billion to more than £3.2 billion and the latest delays are likely to increase the costs further. A growing chorus of critics is calling for the city’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, to step down over the matter.   Click here to view full story…