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Brandenburg: How Many Times Can an Airport Be Shut Down?

If there was a competition in shutting down airports, Berlin and Brandenburg would win it. They are now closing down former Schönefeld Airport. Again.

Berlin, February 20th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — During the months leading up to the inauguration of BER Airport in 2020, FBB, the company that ran all airports in the region, kept on sending out press releases almost every day. They said the terminals at Schönefeld Airport would be renamed. Weeks later, the entire airport was converted to ‘Terminal 5’, meaning it became part of BER, which did not exist yet at the time.

The Obvious Problem

Then the opening of BER, which finally replaced both Schönefeld and Tegel Airport, came closer and closer. Everything was tested. Hundreds of volunteers rehearsed all processes at the new airport. An avalanche of press releases was sent out at every step of the way. Then, finally, BER opened on October 31st, 2020. Tegel and Schönefeld were officially closed.

Former Schönefeld Airport is now Terminal 5. Well, it was. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Now, a closed airport, Schönefeld a.k.a. Terminal 5, will be closed again. In a way it will be ‘closed-closed’. The problem is obvious: There are no passengers. In 2019, when the world was still standing, some 100,000 passengers hit the airports in the Berlin Brandenburg region every single day. Today, there is only a fraction.

The Genius Idea

If things continue this way, there will be 3.5 million passengers this year. BER Airport’s new Terminal 1 can handle 28 million. So, why leave Terminal 5 open? FBB now intends to save a lot of money by shutting it down. How do they develop these ideas, in a situation in which they lose 1 million Euro (1.2 million U.S. Dollars or 0.9 Pounds Sterling) per day? This is pure genius.

Schönefeld Airport looked nice, but only in the dark. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The genius idea is supposed to be implemented on February 23rd, 2021. What this means is that the former pride of the GDR — it was the communist state’s main airport — will be closed on Tuesday. Berlin and Brandenburg have gotten used to airport closures and openings by now, since they happen every 5 minutes.

The Inevitable Step

Officially, Terminal 5 will remain closed for one year “at first”. The “at first” part in the latest press release FBB puffed out already hints at the inevitable: Schönefeld Airport, or Terminal 5, might never reopen, at least not as an airport. The aviation industry does not expect air travel to normalize again before 2025. By then, Terminal 2 of BER Airport will be in service, if it is needed.

Passengers have to squeeze into these crowds. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

In an interview with the ‘Berliner Zeitung’ daily, FBB’s CEO Engelbert Lütke Daldrup just said it himself. Asked whether this might be the end for Terminal 5, he said all options were on the table. He could not rule out anything. Well, who can? The virus turned the world into minced meat, and the aviation business with it.

The Public Transport

According to FBB, the public transport situation at Terminal 5 will not change. And the Corona vaccination center at building M, which is part of former Schönefeld Airport, today’s Terminal 5 with that ugly sign on its roof, will remain open. How about renaming the whole thing “Vaccination Location Terminal 5 Schönefeld”?

Related feature: Berlin: Schönefeld Airport Ceases to Exist

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