Business leaders from Berlin are ratcheting up pressure on policymakers and airlines to secure more nonstop intercontinental flights from the German capital. The vast majority of regional firms want a speedy fix.
According to a fresh survey by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Berlin (IHK Berlin), businesses in the German capital and the state of Brandenburg surrounding it are increasingly unhappy about their inability to reach destinations on other continents without any stopovers.
The poll among 150 firms with a combined workforce of some 14,000 people reveals that three in four companies complain about what they say is a completely insufficient number of nonstop intercontinental flights from and to Berlin.
Figures speak volumes
A brief look at the figures makes their dissatisfaction understandable. Right now, the city is able to offer only a meager seven such connections involving its two current airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, with the much bigger new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) set to open in the fall of 2020, following a string of delays over technical issues.
By contrast, the big aviation hubs in western and southern Germany — Frankfurt, Munich and Cologne/Bonn — boast a total of 159 nonstop intercontinental routes.
The IHK survey notes that last year alone, employees from Berlin- and Brandenburg-based companies logged a total of 1.55 million long-haul-flight business trips. In the overwhelming number of cases, travelers had to change planes in Frankfurt, Munich or even Istanbul, London or Paris to get to their final destinations, costing firms a lot of time and money, besides causing a higher CO2 footprint.
In 2018, Berlin airports registered over 35 million passengers, while Germany's largest hub in Frankfurt recorded over 79 million passengers. However, some 55% of travelers in Frankfurt only used the hub to change planes.
IHK Berlin President Beatrice Kramm indicated there were once historical reasons for Berlin not having a larger number of direct long-haul connections because of Europe's former post-WWII division. But that's no excuse anymore.
"Companies in Berlin and Brandenburg would no doubt profit from more nonstop routes," she said. "Internationally, they would become more attractive as business partners or employers, if they could be reached directly."
Speaking with one voice
The trade chamber, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) as well as the uvb employers' organization and the Berlin Partner marketing agency formed an alliance last year to demand more nonstop long-haul flights taking off from Berlin.
According to an analysis by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), regional businesses had identified demand for at least 15 additional such routes from the capital, 11 of them to destinations in Asia. The others would be needed to connect Berlin with the Arabian Peninsula and North America. Among the desired destinations mentioned were Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai, Atlanta, Dallas and Washington.
All problems gone with new hub?
The big question is whether the opening of the new BER airport, slated for October 2020, will drastically change the situation for the better.
"Infrastructure on the ground is crucial when it comes to deciding whether a given airport will be hooked up to nonstop intercontinental flights," said Beatrice Kramm. "And infrastructure conditions will improve considerably with the BER becoming operational next year," she argued.
"However, federal state bodies decide on who gets what in line with international aviation laws — that's why they're called upon to act now so as to make sure that more such nonstop flights will be available for Berlin when its new airport opens."