A recent visit to Berlin gave me the chance for a briefing from the airport’s PR team on the status of Berlin’s airport system.
It’s a big couple of years for the company that runs Berlin Tegel and Schonefeld airports as it gears up for a new unified airport in mid-2012 and prepares to host the World Routes network planning event in early October.
As this shot shows you can see the airport is well advanced.
You might be surprised to learn that traffic at Berlin’s two airports is expected to stagnant this year after several years of some of the fastest annual rises in Germany, says Berlin Airports.
The reason is simple – the country’s air travel tax introduced on 1 January.
This tax, the latest brought in by European states seeking to raise revenue for their national coffers, will cost it 800,000 lost passengers this year across both airports.
Ryanair has already cancelled three domestic German routes because of the tax, which means losing some 500,000 passengers. The airport is fearful too that passengers using Schonefeld, which has boomed as a low-cost carrier mecca in recent years, might choose airports across the border in nearby Poland, which has no such tax.
Polish travellers already make up about 10% of the traffic at Schonefeld with some 400 buses arriving at the airport from across the border every week.
The company hopes the tax issue will not dampen its longer term growth ambitions, which will receive a major boost in 2012 with the opening of the delayed Berlin Brandenburg International. Seen below.
This airport, which is scheduled to leap into action on 3 June, will take over from the existing two airports, which will close.
The 3 June date is set in stone (it was originally scheduled for October this year), says the airport, with a massive move planned for the night of 2 June of equipment from Tegel located across the city to the new airport, which is on the site of the existing Schonefeld airfield.
The inner city ring road will be closed that night to allow the uninterrupted passage of hundreds of airport vehicles.
When it has one airport, with plenty of room for expansion, BBI says it has a big chance to create an international hub in Berlin.
Its target is to break into Europe’s top 10.
Last year Berlin Airports handled just over 22 million passengers, a 6.4% rise over 2009. Initially the new airport will be able to handle 27 million passengers a year, but it has the ability to add satellite terminals and boost capacity to 45 million.
No other airport in Europe has the room to double its traffic like this, says the airport.
Major areas of growth are expected to be in transfer traffic, which is currently only a couple of per cent of the entire traffic base, and traffic coming via the oneworld alliance.
Air Berlin has already begun flying to Miami, a major hub for oneworld founder member American Airlines, and from May it will begin daily operations to another American hub at New York JF Kennedy airport.
The airport will also be attractive to carriers from the Gulf and Asia-Pacific because of its location to the east of Europe. This puts it an hour’s flying time closer than competing hubs like Amsterdam, Paris and London giving it an operational advantage, it says.
At present, only Qatar Airways – which recently celebrated five years of operation in Berlin – serves the city, but other Gulf carriers want to follow suit.
In particular Emirates has been waging a high-profile charm offensive in Germany to enable it to add Berlin and Stuttgart to its network. Lufthansa has been waging a similar offensive trying to keep Emirates out.
Berlin Airports says that BBI will still cater strongly for low-cost carriers when it opens. This is an important market for Berlin, with easyJet, germanwings, Ryanair and others building up service at Schonefeld in particular.
This shot shows what Schonefeld looks like on a rather gray day in mid-January.
BBI will have a low-cost pier (the north one) with a café-style pricing structure where carriers will only pay for what they use at this terminal, which will be designed to be low-cost.