Will LEJ become a second BER?

East German Leipzig-Halle Airport, known in the international transport world as main hub of DHL Express and home of freight carrier AeroLogic, will probably have to supplement troubled Berlin’s future BER Airport. This, because BER will reach its capacity limits right after the ribbon cutting ceremony has taken place, scheduled in late 2017.

LEJ would be happy to welcome Berlin passengers – and air freight as well!  /  courtesy LEJ
LEJ would be happy to welcome Berlin passengers – and air freight as well! / courtesy LEJ

´Scandals have accompanied the BER project from the very beginning of the planning phase. Mismanagement, hair-raising construction errors, technical failures and costs that have gone through the roof - that’s BER’s situation causing its poor reputation. Even Berlin’s new Mayor Michael Mueller admitted right after taking office that the entire venture was ill conceived. “A different location should have been chosen to build BER, far enough away from the site it is constructed on now, to protect the inhabitants of Berlin’s southeastern districts from constant noise emissions once BER is operational.”
It’s still some time to go until then – approximately 2.5 years from now, but the day will come where finally the first flight will take off.

And then?
First thing after day X will be that the easy-to-reach because of being centrally located airport of Tegel, that shoulders most of today’s air traffic, will be shut down for good. This leaves BER as the only airport in operation for the roughly six million Berliners and dwellers of the city’s surrounding metropolitan area.  
A situation that will trigger the next scandal: permanent bottleneck situations at BER. This because the future airport is conceived for handling a maximum of 27 million passengers per year, true to the motto “small is beautiful.” A predictable disaster since the amount of people flying to and from Berlin exceeds this number already and is expected to increase steadily in the coming years by something between 6 and 8 percent.
So what to do?
Enlarging BER right away, although the entire place is still under construction?
This is unlikely to happen because the politicians – BER is owned by Berlin City, the neighboring State of Brandenburg and the Federal Government – lack the courage to cut the Gordian knot after having experienced an endlessly seeming series of BER disasters. Removing and relocating the entire facility at a more adequate location in some thinly populated area outside of Berlin could be an option but is unrealistic because it would need at least 10 years to get the official permits required for getting the green light to turn the first sod.
Now, an alternative solution popped up with Leipzig-Halle airport offering to cooperate with the future BER. Currently, the State of Saxony, of which Leipzig is part of, is working on an official concept to materialize this idea. The basic idea is that Leipzig-Halle which has ample capacity for handling more passengers could take the expected overflow of BER travelers, mainly the leisure segment. This failed so far because a train linking the roughly 160 kilometers distant sites runs almost two hours. Therefore, what’s needed to let the BER-LEJ cooperation plans come true is a high velocity Inter City Express (ICE) train connecting both airports. It can be expected that promoting such a direct express line is a cornerstone within Saxony’s concept.

And what about air freight?
If both airports came to terms on the above mentioned idea, then would it not be of more benefit for BER when LEJ, which has a well proven track record for handling air cargo, does a deal for the air cargo handling.
This might release BER from having to allocate slots to cargo carriers, which they could well use for passenger flights.
Just an idea!
We’ll wait and see how BER and LEJ maybe come to terms on the initial idea.

Heiner Siegmund  /  John Mc Donagh

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