Berlin’s city government has decided to bring forward the closure of the historic airport that once served former West Berlin by four months due to the impact the corona crisis has had on passenger numbers.
Tegel was supposed to close in October when the long-delayed new BER Berlin Brandenburg international airport opens its doors. But a collapse in passenger numbers at Tegel and the capital’s other airport, Schönefeld, has caused the city to rethink its plans.
With just 2,000 passengers flying in an out of the city daily, compared to normal numbers of around 100,000, Berlin has come to the decision that Schönefeld can cope with the lowered demand alone.
There had been some resistance from the federal government, which wanted Tegel to stay open in case state officials arrived on diplomatic missions during the summer. But they have now backed down, deciding to allow state visits to happen at the notoriously downmarket Schöneld airport.
Tegel will be kept in a state of preparedness should passenger numbers spike over the summer and threaten to overwhelm capacity at Schönefeld.
“Personally I would prefer to keep Tegel open until the autumn,” airport boss Lütke Daldrup told local broadcaster RBB. “If I get 50,000 passengers, Tegel will be put straight back into business. But I’m honestly not optimistic that we are going to see those numbers in the next few months.”
Tegel’s colourful history as a location for aviation dates back to the early 20th century when a Prussian airship battalion was based there. The first hangar was constructed over a hundred years ago in 1906.
It played a crucial role in breaking the Russian blockade on West Berlin in 1948 and welcomed its first commercial flight at the start of the 1960s, a moment that marked it out over Tempelhof as the main landing station in the city’s west.
Reachable from most parts of the city with a regular bus ticket, the airport is something of a rarity in western Europe – an inner city airport with connections to destinations across the continent.
But with the multi-billion euro BER airport set to open almost a decade behind schedule at the end of October, Tegel’s last chapter could well have now been written.
BER was planned in the 1990s and construction began in 2006.
It was originally to open in 2011 but the date has been repeatedly pushed back over a series of issues, including fire safety.
The airport is intended to replace both Tegel and Schönefeld.