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Berlin’s new airport opens nine years late with little ceremony

Construction of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt, better known as BER, started in 2006 and it was initially due to open in October 2011.

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People walk in front of a sign at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (Markus Schreiber/AP)

People walk in front of a sign at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (Markus Schreiber/AP)

People walk in front of a sign at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Berlin’s new airport was finally opening on Saturday, nine years late and far above its original budget, and, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, with little ceremony and few passengers.

Construction of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt, named after the former West German chancellor, though better known as BER, started in 2006 and it was initially scheduled to open in October 2011.

But a string of technical and planning problems forced officials to abandon six opening dates — most embarrassingly in 2012, just four weeks before flights were supposed to start.

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Terminal 1 of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which has cost £6.3 billion (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Terminal 1 of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which has cost £6.3 billion (Markus Schreiber/AP)

AP/PA Images

Terminal 1 of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which has cost £6.3 billion (Markus Schreiber/AP)

That propelled the project to the status of a national joke as airport managers struggled to get a grip on various problems, including a complex fire safety system that had long caused headaches.

The airport has cost some six billion euros (£6.3 billion), about three times what was originally planned, and is finally opening at a time when air traffic has been crippled by the pandemic.

The opening of the new airport’s Terminal 2 has been delayed until early next year because it is not currently needed.

BER’s opening spells the end of West Berlin’s Cold War-era Tegel airport, the busier of the two ageing and increasingly cramped airports that have served the reunited German capital until now.

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The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport was initially scheduled to open in October 2011 (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport was initially scheduled to open in October 2011 (Markus Schreiber/AP)

AP/PA Images

The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport was initially scheduled to open in October 2011 (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Saturday’s first landings at the new airport will kick off a week-long transition, with the last flight from Tegel due to depart on November 8.

The former East Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, which is located across the runways from BER, is being incorporated into the new airport as its “Terminal 5”.

Tegel and Schoenefeld handled a total 35.6 million passengers last year, putting Berlin in third place in Germany behind the Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

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