Berlin’s Tegel Airport has been given a reprieve as easing travel restrictions create demand for flights at the Cold War-era facility.
Passenger traffic is expected to pick up again in coming weeks as lockdowns ease across Europe, and Tegel will therefore remain open through October, according to airport operator Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg (FBB).
“We have to support the newly regained freedom to travel while maintaining high standards of hygiene and distancing,” Chief Executive Officer Engelbert Luetke Daldrup told a news conference on Wednesday. “We have to offer enough space to the airlines.”
Berlin authorities and FBB said last month the airport to the north of the city center would be allowed to suspend operations from June 15 after the coronavirus virtually halted air travel. Flights were slated to be handled instead at Schoenefeld to the southeast of the city until the long-delayed BER airport – located at the same site – opens at the end of October.
PREVIOUS [29 May, 2020] | Berlin's Tegel Airport will temporarily close on June 15, with the chance that it may not re-open before the much-delayed Berlin-Brandenburg Airport finally begins operations on October 31.
Tegel was slated to pull down the shutters on November 8, one week after airlines begin flying in to and out of Berlin-Brandenburg, but shareholders of the city's airport operator Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg (FBB) have voted for an earlier shut-down to reduce losses given the slump in traffic.
Berlin Schönefeld Airport – which is adjacent to and shares the same runways as Berlin-Brandenburg, with the later perhaps better described as a new terminal rather than a new airport per se – will be the German capital's sole airport in the interim.
The number of passengers across both Tegel and Schönefeld is now said to stand at just 1% of regular traffic – an environment in which Berlin's airport owner FBB reportedly sees "a deficit of one million Euros per day."
Although Tegel's shut-down is described as temporary, the longer the coronavirus pandemic keeps airlines and travellers grounded, the less likely it will be to re-open ahead of Brandenburg, which has now been cleared for the end of October - 14 years after construction began, and eight years after the first ribbon-cutting was due.
A final inspection by safety officials has given a thumbs-up to the beleaguered airport, which will host most airlines that previously considered Tegel as their Berlin home, with Lufthansa as a cornerstone carrier along with siblings Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport's new lounges
The newly-minted BER airport will include new lounges from Lufthansa and, potentially, a Oneworld-branded lounge.
Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines will all begin flying from Berlin Brandenburg Terminal 1 in the week commencing October 31.
Business and first class flyers, Miles & More members holding top-tier status along with their Star Alliance Gold siblings will enjoy access to a sprawling Lufthansa lounge at Terminal 1's Main Pier North.
The 1,600 square metre footprint will be divided into seperate Business Lounge and Senator Lounge spaces, both with panoramic windows affording sweeping views across the airfield and the Berlin skyline beyond.
Other Star Alliance airlines, including LOT, SAS and United, are expected to join Lufthansa and co at Brandenburg Terminal 1, while Lufthansa's low-cost arm Eurowings is headed to Terminal 2.
A Oneworld-branded lounge?
Several members of the Oneworld alliance will also make Berlin Brandenburg their new home at the German capital: among them British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, S7 and Qatar Airways.
British Airways currently has a lounge at Tegel, but a spokesman for the airline was unable to confirm there'd be a BA lounge at Brandenburg, telling Executive Traveller only that "we will definitely have a lounge proposition for customers."
Oneworld is intent on building out its network of own-branded lounges – the first of which is slated for Moscow's Domodedovo Airport – and Brandenburg certainly fits the criteria which Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney laid out to Executive Traveller when the program was first announced.
"The idea is that we develop these where no single airline has a massive presence, but we have multiple airlines flying into the same airport, maybe with daily flights. So while collectivity we (as Oneworld) have a lot of flights, no single airline could justify the cost of the lounge."
(Ironically, Brandenburg was originally set to be the home hub of Oneworld member AirBerlin before the challenger airline collapsed in October 2017.)
Gurney also called out new or redeveloped terminals and airports as offering a suitable launchpad for Oneworld lounges, at the time suggesting there were "around 15 to 30 opportunities globally."
Approached for comment by Executive Traveller, a Oneworld spokeswoman would say only that the alliance "continues in discussions with several partners for potential Oneworld branded lounges, and will communicate further details once we are in a position to do so."
Also read: The evolution of alliance lounges