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Cars and Transportation

Berlin airport plans 'soft launch' without main terminal

December 12, 2017

Berlin International Airport's chief hopes to save the country from further embarassment with his "BER Lite" project. The plan would see the airport open "metal boxes" instead of the elegantly designed main terminal.

Deutschland BER Berlin Brandenburg Airport
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Andersen

The firm behind Berlin's beleaguered new international airport confirmed to Deutsche Welle on Tuesday its latest gambit to save what has become perhaps Germany's longest-running joke and national embarrassment – a "soft launch" without the main terminal at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER).

As first reported by Spiegel, the newest BER Director, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, is set to present his "BER Lite" plan to the company's supervisory board on Friday.

Lütke Daldrup is the fourth leader tasked with rescuing the project, which has missed successive opening dates in remarkable fashion since 2011.

A disaster decades in the making

After 15 years of planning, workers broke ground on the site in 2006. A series of failures in planning and execution, combined with accusations of mismanagement and corruption, has seen at least three proposed opening dates come and go, with the latest suggestion being autumn 2019.

BER-Flughafen Berlin-Brandenburg 2017
Empty check-in desks stand ready for passengers, who will not arrive for yearsImage: DW/J. Dumalaon

However, a report by regulator TÜV in November 2017 found that continued problems with fire safety controls would push back the opening another two years to 2021 at the very earliest. Until then, Berlin must continue to cope with small, outdated Tegel and Schönfeld airports, while BER's completed hotels and storefronts are left to collect dust.

According to Spiegel, Lütke Daldrup's new plan would see the airport's beautiful main terminal designed by star architect Meinhard von Gerkan remain closed while "industrial pre-fab" metal boxes house passengers on their way to other destinations.

"Instead of Gerkan's vision of an elegant, easy-to-use airport, it would become a thrown-together airport city," Spiegel wrote.

Whether or not the board accepts Lütke Daldrup's new vision for the "Master Plan 2040," remains to be seen on Friday. The board has said that it remains committed to opening the airport's main terminal – some day.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.