The opening of BER Airport’s Terminal 1 is coming closer. On site, people are running around like crazy. Everything is being rehearsed. What the new airport will really be known for during its first weeks is emptiness. Welcome aboard.
Berlin, October 30th, 2020 (The Berlin Spectator) — Welcome to BER. These are three letters that stand for an elegant new airport terminal, but also for an embarrassing delay the entire world laughed about. Fasten your seatbelts. Takeoff thrust was just set.
Flight to Sofia
In front of Terminal 1, two Bulgarian nationals are looking for their gate. They insist their flight to Sofia will take off right here, but the new terminal will not open until Saturday. Before Sunday, no flights are scheduled to take off. For their flight to Bulgaria, they need to take a bus to Terminal 5. But they do not believe this information is accurate. Well, why did they ask in the first place?
Inside the rather large building, many are rehearsing what they will do once things get serious. Federal Police Officers are taking turns walking up and down at the premises. Two of their colleagues are guarding the entrance to the security area only passengers, flight crews and staff may enter. So far, not a single passenger is in sight because Terminal 1 is not in service.
Fancy Buffet Restaurant
The Aeroflot counter on the first floor is empty. One flight up, on the observation deck, two men in green jackets are installing a snack bar and a fridge with Cocoa Cola products. Thanks to Corona, they will hardly have customers for now. Downstairs, on the mid-level, ‘Marché’, a fancy buffet restaurant, is partially open already. Oh yes, staffers and cops need to eat too.
Another floor down, in BER Airports’s train station, the red and shiny ‘FEX Train’, the new Airport Express, is entering platform no. 1. The locomotive engineer is satisfied. Since Tuesday, he has been driving the train back and forth between Berlin’s central station and this new station. “The trip takes me 31 minutes”, he says with a smile. Here is someone who loves his job.
Eighth Wonder of the World
At Terminal 1, people are running around like headless chickens. Staffers want everything to be perfect when the first passengers arrive. For now, many of them seem to be busy showing the eighth wonder of the world to journalists and employees who need to wear yellow and orange vests so that they can be found easily if they get lost.
This airport should have opened in 2012, but there were a few tiny problems which took eight years to resolve. That is why the price tag doubled to 6 billion Euro (7 billion U.S. Dollars or 5.5 billion Pounds Sterling). Congrats.
Not a Good Moment
Now that the second Corona lockdown for Germany was just announced, this is not really a good moment for inaugurating a major airport. Domestic tourism is forbidden and the better part of the rest of the world is a high risk area. Former business travelers conduct Zoom meetings in their pyjamas instead of showing off their elegant suits in Lufthansa’s VIP lounges.
The late Willy Brandt is smiling down from a wall on the mid-level of Terminal 1. That is because BER’s full name is ‘Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt’. He was West Germany’s first Social-Democratic Chancellor, stood for “more democracy”, for creating a more progressive Federal Republic that would suit the 1968 generation more, and he built contacts to Eastern Europe, including Russia and East Berlin.
Buzz to Die Down
In 1974, Willy Brandt Stepped down because his closest employee turned out to be a communist spy from the GDR. Forty-six years later, in 2020, Brandt is back, on a wall in an airport that took centuries to finish. One that is about to open, in the middle of the worst crisis the Federal Republic of Germany has had.
All the buzz about BER Airport will die down in about a week from now, on November 8th, 2020, once all airlines have moved their stuff from Tegel Airport to BER. There is more to inaugurate in Berlin, including a new U-Bahn (metro, tube, underground, subway) line and the Berlin Palace.
Related features and articles about the airports in the region, all of them, can be found here.