Berlin airport opening delayed until March 2013 | News | DW | 17.05.2012
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Berlin airport opening delayed until March 2013

Berlin's mayor has revealed that there will be a delay of nearly ten months for the German capital's new international airport. It had been due to open in less than three weeks.

The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, announced on Thursday that Berlin's new international airport, which was scheduled to open on June 3, will not be in service until March 2013.

Safety concerns pushed back the opening date when it was revealed earlier this month that there were deficits in mandatory fire prevention measures at Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport. It was initially believe that the delay would have been for just two to three months.

Wowereit also serves as the head of the board of directors for the airport, which decided at a meeting late Wednesday that the airport's chief planner, Manfred Körtgen, would be relieved of his duties from June 1.

The airport, which will officially be known as the Willy Brandt Airport after the former Berlin mayor and German chancellor in the 1970s, is being built on the existing Schönefeld Airport, located southeast of Berlin in what was formerly communist East Germany. The new facility is slated to take over operations from Tempelhof Airport, which has already been closed, and Tegel Airport, located close to northern Berlin suburbs, which is due to shut down soon.

Second abortive opening date

The delay marks the second failed opening of the new airport after planning changes forced authorities to postpone its original opening date in November 2011.

So far there is no word on exactly how much the additional delay until 2013 will cost, but German airline Air Berlin will be particularly hard-hit by the new opening date. The company's hub is in Berlin and it had planned on using the new airport for all of its flights. Air Berlin has since had to change its flight schedules, including flights already booked, to reflect the fact that Willy Brandt Airport will not yet be operational.

"We're not only suffering economically, but our hub is losing face," said Air Berlin chief Harmut Mehdorn on Thursday. "That is hardy financially calculable."

When it is finished, the airport is supposed to have an initial capacity of 27 million passengers per year, though capacity is scheduled to gradually reach 50 million passengers.

The airport, which is close to Berlin's sprawling southern suburbs, has proven hugely controversial as residents fear the site will create substantial noise pollution.

mz/ipj (dpa, AFP)