Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off

Berlin region’s new international airport has been dogged by one failure after another, becoming a financial black hole and a national laughing stock. (AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2020

Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off

  • The airport, located in the south-east of the capital, was originally due to open in 2011
  • BER initially projected to cost $2 billion but already was past the $7.6 billion mark

BERLIN: Nine years late and eye-wateringly over budget, the Berlin region’s new international airport will finally open on Saturday — in the middle of a global pandemic that has crippled air travel.
“We are ready for take-off!” insists the management team at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), set to replace the German capital’s aging Tegel and Schoenefeld airports.
But the mood is one of relief rather than celebration.
Ever since construction began on BER in 2006, the project has been dogged by one failure after another, becoming a financial black hole and a national laughing stock — not exactly an example of German efficiency.
The airport, located in the south-east of the capital, was originally due to open in 2011.
Now it is opening its doors in the middle of the worst crisis the aviation industry has ever seen, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to suffocate air travel.
And as if that were not enough, there’s also the climate crisis: pressure group Extinction Rebellion is planning acts of “civil disobedience” on the opening day to protest against the impact of aviation on global warming.
Against that backdrop, “We will simply open, we will not have a party,” according to Engelbert Luetke Daldrup, president of the airport’s management company.
Lufthansa and EasyJet will be the first two airlines to touch down on the tarmac of what will be Germany’s third-largest airport, after Frankfurt and Munich.
A few days before the opening, around 200 staff were busy disinfecting the 360,000-square-meter Terminal 1.
Some 100 alcoholic hand gel dispensers have been installed and robot vacuum cleaners hum over the floors.
The “Magic Carpet,” a huge, bright red artwork by American artist Pae White suspended from the ceiling, brings a touch of color to the check-in hall.
The airport has been designed to welcome 27 million passengers a year, but in November it will see only 20 percent of usual air traffic thanks to the pandemic.
Terminal 2 won’t open until spring 2021.
About 15 shops and restaurants out of just over 100 will remain shut, while the rest will be forced to keep “limited opening hours” because of low traffic through the airport, a spokesman said
None of this good news for BER, initially projected to cost $2 billion but already past the $7.6 billion.
The airport has been granted $353 billion in state aid to help safeguard the jobs of the 20,000 people who will eventually work there until the end of 2020.
The health crisis is already having an impact on employment at the hub: at the end of July, Berlin’s airports announced the loss of 400 jobs out of a total of 2,100.
EasyJet has said it will cut 418 jobs in the German capital, and Europe’s leading airline Lufthansa, Germany’s flagship carrier, is to shed 30,000 jobs worldwide.
“We fear even greater job losses in the future,” a spokesman for the Verdi union said.
Luetke Daldrup hopes the situation will improve “from the spring onwards.” But the International Air Transport Association does not expect global air traffic to reach pre-crisis levels until 2024.
In the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, local leaders remain optimistic about the prospects for development.
“No hotel has so far postponed its investment plans because of the pandemic,” insists Olaf Luecke, president of the local branch of Germany’s hotel and catering trade union (DEHOGA).
Construction work began in September on two 14,000-square-meter (150,000-square-foot) hotel complexes, due to open in 2022.
And in anticipation of the opening of BER, US electric-car giant Tesla has chosen Brandenburg as the location of its first European factory, which is set to employ 40,000 people.
“Having new, modern infrastructure will be beneficial in any case, despite the pandemic,” according to Carsten Broenstrup of the state employers’ association.
But “if there is not a vaccine soon, it will be a very big problem,” he admits.


Egypt expects economic growth between 2.8 and 4% in 2021

Updated 56 min 36 sec ago

Egypt expects economic growth between 2.8 and 4% in 2021

  • Unemployment indicators also reflected the economy's development

CAIRO: Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said the country was reaching positive growth rates, calling it a great achievement in light of the global conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Maait said the estimated rate of economic growth in the fiscal year 2021-2022 would reach between 2.8 and 4 percent.

He said the percentage varied according to how each person perceived it sectorally, and that industries such as tourism and aviation were significantly affected by the spread of the disease.

“We have a priority to make room for the private sector’s participation in development projects,” the minister added.

He explained that there would be strengthened cooperation with the Transport Ministry in implementing its projects in partnership with the private sector.

Egypt had been hoping for growth between 6 and 6.5 percent before the coronavirus crisis broke out.

The country topped the emerging market economies in containing the rate of inflation during the current year, according to data from the Egyptian cabinet, despite the global repercussions of the health emergency.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Egypt achieved the largest annual decline in the inflation rate in emerging markets in 2020, compared to 2019, with a decline of 8.2 percentage points.

Among the effects of the economic reform plan were inflation rates falling to 5.7 percent during 2019-2020, compared to 13.9 percent in 2018-2019.

Unemployment indicators also reflected the economy's development. 

Recent data from the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics showed the unemployment rate declining to 7.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, compared to 7.8 percent a year ago.

Egypt's monetary reserves rose to $39.22 billion by the end of last October, according to the country's central bank.

The IMF said the performance of the Egyptian economy exceeded expectations.