Berlin's airport operator has stepped up preparations for a potential part-opening of the German capital's flagship Brandenburg hub in spring 2014.
Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg, the airport's operator, has internally evaluated an isolated opening of the terminal's northern pier for limited airline operations for some time. The plan still requires approval by building authorities, but the company says that the supervisory board decided during its latest meeting on 16 August to proceed with the strategy and make necessary preparations for such an approval.
The objective is to test some 56 systems - such as apron lighting, communication lines and emergency power supply - which could be assessed with "large learning effects" in a small operational scenario, says the operator. If there are any problems, the firm adds, it would be much easier to make contingency plans for a small number of flights than after a full inauguration of the airport.
Up to 10 daily flights with about 1,500 passengers could thus be handled in, what the airport calls, a "preliminary flight operational phase". This is targeted to begin in April 2014 with a small number of airlines.
No date has yet been revealed for the airport's full opening. This is to be set at the next supervisory board meeting in October.
Berlin-based wet-lease and charter carrier Germania as well as leisure airline Condor have been approached for the trial. However, both carriers decline to provide any detail about the discussions.
The trial operations would create additional costs of nearly €6 million ($8 million) to modify the northern pier. The building has originally been designed as an airside departure lounge area, which is to be used by passengers after they have gone through customs and security checks in the central terminal.
The airport will thus have to install temporary check-in and security facilities as well as baggage reclaim areas for arriving passengers. A road will also need to be built to provide access to the building.
The trial plans have intensified existing tensions among the airport's senior executive team, however, and could lead to the departure of technical director Horst Amann, according to local media reports.
The current strategy - which was endorsed by the supervisory board - had been put forward by chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn.
Amann had offered an alternative part-opening concept that would have created additional costs of €15 million, although this found no support among the supervisory board.
Meanwhile, Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit has become acting chairman of the supervisory board after its former head, Matthias Platzeck, resigned due to health reasons.
Wowereit was the airport's chairman until January 2013. But he stepped down after it became clear that the latest target date for the Brandenburg hub's opening, in October 2013, could not be met.
A new chairman is to be appointed during the next supervisory board meeting in October.