ROUTES: New airport can make Berlin gateway to the East

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As Berlin prepares to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the country's unification, air traffic to the German capital is at record levels with the city having weathered the recession better than other markets.

"World economic difficulty affected Berlin, but Berlin proved less volatile," said Berlin Brandenburg Airport chief executive Rainer Schwartz. Berlin's new airport will open on 3 June 2012 in the midst of a traffic surge.

Passenger totals for its airports reached a record 22.3 million in 2010 and Schwartz expects 24 million this year. Passenger growth in Germany is more than 6% this year, with Berlin well above that average.

The new airport gives Berlin the ability to transfer passengers for the first time, whereas short-haul passengers currently arrive into Schoenefeld airport, while long-haul services land at Tegel.

Both airports will close on 2 June 2012 and, after two years of planning, all aircraft and ground equipment will move to the new site in one night. The city will also use the BER airport code for the first time.

"We need the new airport," Schwartz said. "This will allow us to use our geographic advantage to become a gateway to Eastern Europe and the Far East.

Roads and a new runway have been completed. BER's main terminal is the same size as Berlin's Olympic Stadium.