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Berlin and its Chronic Lack of Direct Flights to the U.S.

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, the Governor of Brandenburg and a former Foreign Minister take a direct flight from Berlin to Dulles Airport in Virginia, located only some 30 miles from Washington D.C.. Of course this sounds like a fairy tale because there are no direct flights, neither to Dulles nor to most other U.S. airports.

But it did happen, in 1999. Then-Mayor Eberhard Diepgen was proud of that flight. So were Manfred Stolpe and the late Hans-Dietrich Genscher. In that pre-9/11 environment, when the sky was still the limit, it lasted for a little while. Only months later, that flight connection was dumped.

Today, 20 years ahead, there are no direct flights from Berlin to Dulles, or to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tampa or pretty much anywhere in the U.S.. Berlin might be big compared to Frankfurt, Düsseldorf or Munich, but those are the cities which provide large hubs at their airports.

Berlin is an important capital, but in order to get to that other important capital, you need to fly to Frankfurt first, then to Dulles, Virginia, and then take a long cab ride. Or fly directly to Newark, New Jersey, and then to the only airport in the U.S. which carries the names of two former presidents: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, located right at the banks of Potomac river.

Getting to New York City from Berlin is easy. United Airlines provides a direct flight to Newark, located next door. In May, Delta started flying from Berlin to John F. Kennedy Airport. Yes, JFK was a Berliner.

So, those who want to take a stroll down 5th Avenue, enjoy a Broadway musical or a gig at the Blue Note in Manhattan while munching hamburgers, are safe. The same applies to those who want to listen to Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. That is because American Airlines will fly them, directly, using Boeing 767ER (‘Extended Range’) aircraft. The trip takes nine hours and 15 minutes.

The German-language ‘Tagesspiegel’ daily recently quoted an American Airlines manager who said the Philadelphia flight was a test. His airline wanted to change the fact that, so far, Berlin was located off course.

Berliners who like spending their vacations in the U.S., and who have the money to pay for those unforgettable moments overseas, are interested in more direct flight connections. To hell with Frankfurt Airport, where you have to walk for days in order get from Terminal A to Terminal B.

According to the ‘Tagesspiegel’, Berlin businesses and politicians insist on more direct connections as well, also because they believe those would give the local economy an impulse. It’s not like Berlin does not welcome any tourists. Actually, there are almost too many of them. Still, business is business.

While Berlin has six direct flights to intercontinental destinations, Paris, London and other hubs in Western Europe have 100 to 150. Quite a difference, isn’t it?

What seems to be the problem? Well, for Lufthansa, Frankfurt Airport was built up as its main hub decades ago, in Western Germany, when West Berlin was surrounded by the GDR. International airlines, including American ones, have been using the infrastructure Lufthansa needed in Frankfurt, for a long time.

Secondly, Berlin is a mess what airports are concerned. Tegel and Schönefeld are about to burst, Tempelhof and Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) are not operational. For BER it will supposedly happen in October of 2020. Good joke! We have heard that one before.

More articles having to do with aviation can be found here.