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Berlin Tegel Airport to close as passenger numbers plummet

May 20, 2020

Berlin's busiest airport looks set to close on June 15 for at least two months, and perhaps for good if a long-stalled new airport ever actually opens. The measure aims to save money amid ongoing travel bans.

Berlin Tegel Airport looking very empty
Image: imago images/J. Ritter

Berlin's Tegel Airport is likely temporarily close from June 15 to save costs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, after shareholders agreed to this measure on Wednesday.

The federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg agreed in principled to the decision during a video conference with shareholders. Airport operator FBB would close Tegel for around two months, aiming to save around €200,000 ($220,000) a day.

"In the next few months we will see if the capital region needs one or two airports," FBB chief Lütke Dalrup told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "Now it is about taking the next steps responsibly. Our next job is to ensure the recovery of the air industry and not hinder it."

All traffic would be handled by Berlin Schönefeld airport, which operates mainly budget airlines like easyJet and Ryanair.

Tegel and Schönefeld have seen only around 2,000 passengers per day in recent weeks.

Read more: Berlin's new airport: 'This time it will happen'

Already on borrowed time

Despite being earmarked for closure for years now, amid faltering plans to open a larger replacement hub for the capital, Berlin Tegel remains Berlin's busiest airport. At least 24 million people flew via Tegel in 2019, making it Germany's fourth busiest airport.

Tegel was once set to close for good in June 2012, ceasing operations after the newly constructed Berlin Brandenburg airport (BER) was scheduled to open in 2011. But the BER airport is still unfinished after repeated delays, attributed to everything from design flaws to corruption scandals.

The FBB announced last year that Berlin Brandenburg would begin operations in October of this year. The coronavirus pandemic has cast further doubt onto an opening date that was elevated to the status of a running joke in Berlin years ago — but the FBB remains optimistic it can open on schedule.

It's no longer entirely clear if Tegel will close completely if and when Berlin Brandenburg airport is ever operational: a public referendum in 2017 called for Tegel to remain in operation regardless.

ed/aw (dpa, Reuters)

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