At 72-year-old Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL), the lights will be turned off
on 15 June. The date is a compromise reached between the operator, that favored an earlier closure, and the stakeholders, who opted for a later end; these are the City of Berlin, the state of
Brandenburg, and the Federal Republic.
The forthcoming closure concludes a chapter of moving aviation history that began during the Soviet blockade of Berlin and the following Airlift in 1948, when thousands of DC-3 “Raisin Bombers” landed at newly built Tegel to secure supplies to West Berlin and the survival of the then divided city.
Crises mostly accelerate development but sometimes also prevent changes being made or slow them down considerably. In the case of Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL), it was external threat, the Soviet
blockade of the city, that led to the construction of the airport, built from scratch in a record-breaking 90 days.
In contrast, Tegel’s forthcoming successor, Berlin Brandenburg International, sets a rather poor example. BER is under construction since 2006 and expected to be inaugurated on 31OCT this year. In this specific case, a series of self-induced crises slowed down most activities and delayed its launch severely, reaching from ill-managed planning, construction errors, grotesque authority confusion, political mishaps, a defunct and complicated smoke detection system, et alia.
Because of these and other shortcomings, BER has become a synonym for inefficiencies, managerial incompetence, planning chaos, and cost explosion.
Finally, however, the airport is nearing its launch date. Conversely, Berlin Tegel’s days are numbered. Until recently, the airport was supposed to be closed for good at the end of this year, following a transition period of some weeks, until all processes are running smoothly at BER.
“Pack your bags!”
But again, Berlin’s airport policy is always good for a surprise. Seen by the fact that its operator Berliner Flughafen-GmbH, has sent a letter to the Tegel-based cargo companies, urging them to pack their belongings and move to the Berlin-Brandenburg Cargo Center (adjacent to future BER) by 02JUN20.
The reason given, was that operator Berliner Flughafen insisted to shut down the airport at the beginning of June, instead of November or December as originally intended. This date will now be postponed by two weeks, but in principle this does not change the relocation order for the cargo companies concerned. However, what is particularly surprising in the operator's demand is the implied reversal of the decision, indicating a U-turn in case “urging circumstances” require the return of operations to Tegel again. A bizarre and for the companies concerned hardly comprehensible clause.
Enough is enough!
By "circumstances" is meant that from 15JUN20 onwards, the day TXL goes offline, many existing travel restrictions following the Corona pandemic spread will end, which could lead to an onslaught of air travelers. In that case, it will no longer be possible to comply with the applicable distance rules when thousands of passengers are lining up – literally speaking – from BER’s fence to the security controls at BER’s neighbor Schoenefeld Airport, the former capital airport of the communist governed Eastern Germany, that will become an integral part of Berlin Brandenburg Airport after BER's inauguration.
As a consequence of the expected Schoenefeld bottlenecks, operator Berliner Flughaefen GmbH intends to re-open Tegel for some weeks or even months until the official launch of Berlin Brandenburg International on 31OCT20, as emphasized in the note.
This, however, has thrown the local cargo industry into turmoil because, if commanded, the companies would have to return their entire personnel and handling equipment to their abandoned Tegel offices and warehouses and start doing business from there again, including trucking goods between both sites. A nightmare and a costly issue.
In the meantime, first players announced their resistance to moving back and forth. Lufthansa bluntly stated that they refuse to return to TXL after shutting down their offices and stopping flying from there. It is likely that others will follow suit.
In the meantime, there has been a new turn in Berlin airport policy. TXL will not be closed on 2 June, as recently announced by Airport CEO Engelbert Luetke Daldrup, but in July istead. However, this is only a provisional decision, still pending final approval. Tomorrow (20May20), the management will meet with representatives of the stakeholders in an attempt to settle the differences on the closure date once and for all.
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