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Europe’s new gateway

Posted: 29 March 2012 | Prof. Dr. Rainer Schwarz, CEO of Berlin Brandenburg Airport | 2 comments

Berlin Brandenburg Airport starts operating on 3 June 2012. The new airport will be Berlin’s new gateway to the world. It is a next-generation hub airport with a strong focus on European traffic as a feeder for long-haul connections. Following the start of construction work in September 2006, we officially started the countdown to the opening of the new airport in June 2011, and replaced the project name ‘BBI’ with the new airport’s real name: Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt. The new IATA code for the airport is BER. These three letters are the new hallmark of the airport and will be carried out into the world on tickets and boarding passes.

The Berlin Brandenburg region currently has two airports, Tegel and Schönefeld. Tempelhof was closed on 30 October 2008, and Tegel Airport, which is stretched way beyond its capacity, will follow this year. As of June 2012, all air traffic will be concentrated at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which is located on the site of the current Schönefeld Airport, south east of Berlin. This concentration of air traffic will turn BER into a hub, reduce operating costs, increase productivity, create up to 40,000 new jobs and cut aircraft noise considerably for hundreds of thousands of citizens due to the closure of Tegel and Tempelhof.

BER will be Europe’s most modern airport and will offer airlines excellent opportunities for growth.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport starts operating on 3 June 2012. The new airport will be Berlin’s new gateway to the world. It is a next-generation hub airport with a strong focus on European traffic as a feeder for long-haul connections. Following the start of construction work in September 2006, we officially started the countdown to the opening of the new airport in June 2011, and replaced the project name ‘BBI’ with the new airport’s real name: Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt. The new IATA code for the airport is BER. These three letters are the new hallmark of the airport and will be carried out into the world on tickets and boarding passes.

The Berlin Brandenburg region currently has two airports, Tegel and Schönefeld. Tempelhof was closed on 30 October 2008, and Tegel Airport, which is stretched way beyond its capacity, will follow this year. As of June 2012, all air traffic will be concentrated at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which is located on the site of the current Schönefeld Airport, south east of Berlin. This concentration of air traffic will turn BER into a hub, reduce operating costs, increase productivity, create up to 40,000 new jobs and cut aircraft noise considerably for hundreds of thousands of citizens due to the closure of Tegel and Tempelhof.

BER will be Europe’s most modern airport and will offer airlines excellent opportunities for growth. It will provide the German capital region with the ideal airport to accommodate transfer traffic on a large scale, which has not been possible so far. Up to 27 million passengers per year will be able to take off and land at Berlin Brandenburg Airport which can be gradually expanded in modules to accommodate 45 million passengers. This gives our new airport a planned capacity reserve and slot availability that is unique in Europe.

40 new routes this summer

Never before has Berlin been so well connected to the rest of the world. Eighty airlines currently fly to and from Berlin’s airports, with a particular focus on the European route system. Berlin serves more than 160 destinations in over 50 countries.

Long-haul has been a priority for us and we have already made big steps towards a truly global network. Even before the opening of the new airport, the network of long-haul services from the German capital had been constantly expanding. A few years ago, there were no longhaul connections from Berlin, now we have 13, including New York, Beijing, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Miami and Mombasa. We are confident that we can expand our long-haul network further over the coming years.

With its favourable location in Central Europe, Berlin Brandenburg Airport offers strategic advantages: flight times to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Asia are one hour shorter than from established hubs in the west of the continent. Airlines benefit not only from reduced flight times but also from an aviation market that has doubled over the past decade.

This trend seems to continue with the opening of BER. About 40 new routes have already been announced for the 2012 summer schedule. Lufthansa alone will be offering 30 new destinations within Europe, and airberlin has announced a direct service to Los Angeles, starting in May. The airline is also stepping up its presence in Poland and Scandinavia.

This growth has been made possible by the establishment of airberlin’s hub in May 2010. Since then, the number of passengers using Tegel as a transfer airport has more than doubled, highlighting Berlin’s excellent geographic location. In 2012, when airberlin joins the oneworld alliance, BER will become the third largest airport in Europe served by oneworld. Berlin is now the third most popular European destination for tourists, and one of the leading cities in the world for business travel, conventions and congresses.

A next-generation hub airport

Our aim is clear; for BER to become a nextgeneration hub airport. The airport will benefit from two parallel runways with lengths of 3,600 and 4,000 metres respectively, on a site that encompasses 1,470 hectares; equivalent to 2,000 soccer pitches. The scale and ambition of the project make BER Europe’s biggest airport construction site and the most important infrastructure project for Germany’s capital region.

We will have one midfield terminal with a gross floor space of 280,000m² which serves different airlines and business models under one roof. Lufthansa will mainly use the Main Pier, whereas the South Pier will accommodate airberlin and the oneworld alliance. The North Pier features walk-boarding positions and is tailor-made for low-cost airlines such as easyJet. In total, BER will have 85 aircraft positions, including one gate that is equipped to handle an Airbus A380.

At the same time, airlines can benefit from the tremendous growth the German capital has experienced in recent years – not only in terms of visitors but also economically. Passenger figures and visitor numbers prove just how popular Berlin is. This trend shows no sign of abating.

Beating the market nine years in a row

In 2011, Berlin’s airport passenger figures broke all previous records. For the first time, we reported more than 24 million passengers in a single year. A few months before the opening of BER, these numbers underline BER’s potential to become Europe’s new gateway. Berlin’s airports performed better than the average commercial airport in Germany for the ninth consecutive year, with passenger numbers increasing by 7.7 per cent compared to the German average of about 4.5 per cent. This result has enabled us to consolidate our position in third place in Germany with a market share of about 12 per cent. With the new airport, we want to build on the success of the last decade and, in the medium-term, to become one of Europe’s top 10 airports.

First-rate connectivity

Around 10 million people will be able to reach the Berlin Brandenburg Airport within two hours, with a catchment area that stretches as far as western Poland. The airport will support the development of the German Capital region as well as of eastern Germany and western Poland, not least due to much improved connections between the airport and the city of Berlin as well as western Poland and the rest of Germany.

BER has direct motorway access and a sixtrack railway station directly underneath the terminal with high-frequency connections to the centre of Berlin and the surrounding region. It will take only 30 minutes by train to reach the city centre. High-speed trains will connect BER with other major cities.

Designed with the passenger in mind

We had the unique opportunity to design a completely new airport. This enabled us to balance operational and commercial needs, taking into account the latest developments in air travel. Fortunately, we found that what works well operationally is also good for passengers. For instance, all passengers will go through the one central terminal and through centralised security, which is convenient for them but also efficient for the airport operator. Retail and other amenities are ‘on your way’ and not ‘in your way’.

BER has been designed with the passengers in mind, from getting to the airport to going through security control to shopping and boarding. Simplicity is the key with a ‘one-roof’ concept. Rather than using two or even three airports with numerous terminals, all passengers will arrive and depart from BER in one main terminal.

We will offer passengers all the amenities of contemporary travel. A wide range of nonaviation offers will provide good recreational qualities. A unique world of shopping and experience with around 150 shops, restaurants and service facilities will welcome the passenger at the BER. Our unique Market Place, an inviting 9,000m2 retail plaza at the heart of the main terminal, is the centrepiece of the retail concept, behind the security checkpoint. Every departing passenger will pass this Market Place, after entering the 1,800m2 walk-through dutyfree shop.

We are fortunate to have a great mix of tenants, ranging from global fashion houses and food chains to local restaurants and shops, with a strong presence of shops and restaurants that are very typical of Berlin and Brandenburg. We wanted the new airport to have the particular flair of the German Capital Region while at the same time hosting well-known brands and restaurants that appeal to the global traveller. We hope this will make BER both global and distinguishable from other airports across the world.

Testing

To ensure our operational readiness by June, we decided to undertake a six-month trial period before the first flights depart. Around 10,000 airport testers are currently testing all operational procedures, from check-in to security checks to arrivals and departures. In total, 18,000 people from the area volunteered to participate in the six-month trials that started in November 2011 and will end in May 2012. Over 100,000 checkins will be simulated and up to 300,000 pieces of luggage will be sorted by the baggage system before the opening of the airport. In total, over 500 processes will be tested.

Making history

BER will be named after former German Chancellor and Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt. Brandt was a Social Democrat who governed the city between 1957 and 1966. He witnessed the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his ‘Ostpolitik’, the politics of détente with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Berlin’s airports are part of the collective consciousness, for they have always played a key role throughout the city’s history. Tempelhof was Germany’s birthplace of aviation and the airport of the Berlin Airlift. When Berlin was split into East and West, Tegel became the gateway to the free world while Schönefeld served as the main airport for the communist GDR. After the fall of the Wall, Schönefeld lay dormant and was revived by low-cost airlines in the early 2000s. BER marks the next chapter in the history of air travel in Berlin: a single, modern airport for a unified, modern city.

About the author

Rainer Schwarz has many years’ experience in the field of airport management. The economist, who holds a PhD, has been working in the aviation sector since 1988. Following senior positions at Munich Airport, he served as CEO of Nuremberg Airport and of Düsseldorf International Airport, before taking over as CEO of Berlin Airports in 2006.

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2 responses to “Europe’s new gateway”

  1. Johannes Buechling says:

    Dear Prof. Dr. Rainer Schwarz,

    I am an active reader of all your published articles. I personally see a great future for BBI.

    I am a MSc student at Cranfield University, UK (Airport Planning an Management) and currently I am looking for a good Master thesis topic.

    If you see any chance that I could write my thesis in corporation with BBI, I’d be really happy.

    Here are my contact details:

    Johannes Büchling
    Cranfield University
    MSc in Airport Planning and Management
    [email protected]

    Best regards!

    Johannes Büchling

  2. Mark Glover, International Airport Review, Editor says:

    I have forwarded on your request. Thanks for reading the magazine and good luck with your thesis.

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