Berlin considers Brandenburg airport expansion before opening

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Berlin's airport operator is evaluating whether to expand the German capital's future Brandenburg hub before its opening, while up to €20 million ($26.7 million) are now being invested to upgrade the city's existing Tegel and Schönefeld gateways.

A decision about when the long-delayed flagship airport can be inaugurated is several months away, says Horst Amann, technical director at the Flughafen Berlin-Brandenburg operating company. Only "non-critical" construction works are currently taking place in the terminal's ceilings and electrical wiring installations, he adds, while the main focus still lies on determining how the building's current state varies from its original design proposals.

The inadequate fire protection system - which caused the delay of the planned opening last June - remains the central problem. Amann says that the supply of fresh air is still not functioning reliably in the event of fire.

Matthias Platzeck, head of the regional government in Brandenburg and chairman of the airport's supervisory board, says that the operating company is assessing whether to increase the new hub's capacity before it will be opened.

The team is also evaluating whether the northern runway - which is used for the adjacent Schönefeld airport - needs to be refurbished. It has therefore commissioned a new traffic forecast.

No final conclusions have been reached for the two decisions, says Platzeck. But he adds that the operating company will take "no unnecessary risks" in the planned opening of the new airport.

There are also plans to upgrade the existing facilities at Tegel and Schönefeld with a €10-20 million investment over the coming months. The busier gateway in Tegel will receive the majority of the investment.

The operating company's plans focus on modernising air conditioning systems, baggage retrieval systems and taxiways. It will also clean the terminal buildings, refurbish lavatory facilities and increase staff numbers.

Wilhelm Bender, formerly chief executive of Frankfurt airport, has been appointed as chief consultant for Berlin's airport management. But the Brandenburg operator has not yet named a successor for its former chief executive, Rainer Schwarz, who was dismissed last month.