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‘Goodbye Tegel’: The End of Berlin’s Last Airport

Berlin’s Tegel Airport will be closing for good on November 8th, 2020. All airline passengers from Berlin will have to go to BER Airport in Brandenburg.

Berlin, May 20th, 2020, updated on October 12th, 2020 (The Berlin Spectator) — When the Soviets tried to starve the inhabitants of the city’s Western sectors with their Berlin Blockade, the Western Allies commenced with the Berlin Air Lift. Tempelhof Airport had a capacity problem which is why an additional airport was needed. So, the longest runway in Europe was built in Tegel. A Douglas C-54 loaded with food touched down on November 5th, 1948. It was the first aircraft ever to land there.

Tegel Airport’s architecture is unique. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

PanAm Flights to Tegel

During the Cold War, airlines from the occupation forces England, France and the United States of America were allowed to land at Tegel Airport. Air France was the first to offer regular flights to West Berlin’s large airport in 1960. The first flight landed and took off on January 2nd of that year. PanAm, a legendary former U.S. airline, followed in 1964. Lufthansa was banned from Berlin until the reunification in 1990.

Absolutely nothing was going on on Tegel Airport’s tarmac in May. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

When aviation took off in more than one way, West Berlin’s other airport, Tempelhof, was nearly bursting. For that reason, all charter flights were moved to Tegel Airport. In the late 1980s, West Berlin’s Senate prevented the erection of a second terminal up there. After Germany’s reunification, Lufthansa was finally allowed to fly to – and take off from – Tegel as well.

Berlin’s Four Major Airports
Out of the four major airports the Berlin Brandenburg region has, only one will be operational.
Tempelhof Airport was closed for flights in 2008. It is now ‘An Airport for Skaters, Cyclists and Dogs‘.
BER Airport will be opened on October 31st, 2020. (Read separate article ‘No Inauguration Party for BER Airport Because of Embarrassing Delay‘)
Tegel Airport will be closed for good on November 8th, 2020.
‘> Schönefeld Airport will become Terminal 5 of BER Airport on October 25th, 2020.

The latest on Tegel Airport: Tegel Airport: Sixty Years Later, the Last Flight is Gone (November 8th, 2020)

Chopped Liver

Tegel was supposed to be closed in 2012. But because the new BER Airport was delayed, the operator FBB needed to postpone the closure a million times. In 2019, Tegel Airport and Schönefeld Airport combined broke their own record regarding the number of passengers they processed. On December 20th, the 35 millionth passenger of the year was drowned in prizes.

Things were empty in May of 2020, because of Corona. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Then, in March of 2020, Corona hit and turned aviation into chopped liver. For two months, Tegel Airport was not really needed anymore. Still one of its owners, the Federal Republic of Germany, vetoed its closure. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer did not want to lose Tegel because it accommodated part of the government’s and the Federal President’s official air fleet.

Tegel was the fourth-largest airport in Germany, in terms of the number of passengers. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Urban Tech Republic

Then the government gave in. Since there were hardly any passengers during the first months of the Corona crisis, Tegel was supposed to be shut down on June 15th, 2020. It could have been a final closure because of Tegel’s fixed shutdown on November 8th. But then, in late spring, the Corona situation improved to some extent. The room Tegel provided was needed when Germans started flying to tourist destinations in Europe again.

It’s not a jail, but an airport. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Once the final flight leaves it in early November, Tegel Airport will not just rot and fall apart. A research center and an industrial park named ‘Berlin TXL – The Urban Tech Republic’ will take over. Soon, Berlin will have two former airports, Tempelhof and Tegel, the hexagon design of which was and still is revolutionary.

A passenger! We found one! Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The latest on Tegel Airport: Tegel Airport: Sixty Years Later, the Last Flight is Gone (November 8th, 2020)

Sorry Sight

On the day these photos were shot, May 20th, 2020, Tegel Airport was a sorry sight. At 2:30 p.m., only nine flights were announced for the rest of the day. Eight of them were domestic, one went to Helsinki. At that time, passenger flights were down to 2 percent compared to their number before Corona hit. In summer, things improved when thousands of Germans flew to Spain and other vacation spots. Then, in September of 2020, things turned south when Corona infection numbers skyrocketed again.

Tegel’s Terminals A and B were closed in Spring. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Tegel never offered flights to exotic destinations or to too many intercontinental ones. That is because the airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf were designed to be West Germany’s major hubs during the Cold War, when West Berlin was surrounded by the GDR. But FBB, the operator of all major airports in Berlin and Brandenburg, is hoping BER Airport will change things in this regard, when everything is back to normal.

Tegel will not be forgotten. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Whatever happens to aviation, it will be without Tegel. Goodbye to the last major airport in Berlin. Air France, the airline that operated the first regular flight to and from Tegel will also be the last one to fly people out of there. Flight number 1235 to Paris is scheduled to take off at 3:00 p.m. on November 8th. Merci beaucoup. And don’t forget to turn off the lights.

The latest on Tegel Airport: Tegel Airport: Sixty Years Later, the Last Flight is Gone (November 8th, 2020)