In the Corona crisis, the operators of Berlin’s Tegel Airport are preparing for a temporary closure of the airport from 1 June.
For this purpose, the aviation authority is to apply for an exemption from the operating obligation, announced airport chief Engelbert Lütke Daldrup after committee meetings. “We will make the application today.” At the end of May, a decision should then be taken depending on the number of passengers. Berlin’s operations would then be concentrated on Berlin’s second airport in Schönefeld for at least two months. Airports have only one percent of the usual number of passengers, said Lütke Daldrup.
“We see practically worldwide that air traffic is stopped, that huge airports in other countries are closed,” argued the governing mayor Michael Müller (SPD) in the rbb channel 88.8. “And we simply have to see now that it makes no sense to maintain two infrastructures with Tegel and the old Schönefeld airport.”
Lütke Dalrup does not expect a rapid recovery due to global travel restrictions in the Corona crisis. It could take more than a year. Business trips may not even reach the old level. “We therefore expect that it could also take two or three years before we reach a pre-crisis level.”
Tegel is the fourth largest German airport after Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf in terms of the usual number of passengers. As early as March, Lütke Daldrup had proposed that Tegel be taken off the grid from May. However, he failed due to the resistance of the federal government, which owns the airport company with Berlin and Brandenburg.
The concerns could not be fully addressed at a shareholder meeting on Wednesday afternoon. According to the Ministry of Transport, its representatives wanted to prevent the request to temporarily decommission Tegel. Berlin and Brandenburg, however, were in favour. Together, they hold 74 percent of the airport company.
As a sole location for Berlin, Schönefeld is better suited than Tegel, explained Lütke Daldrup. He pointed out that there is no ban on night flights. The airport also has a medical centre, a cargo centre and direct access to the new capital airport BER. It will be built on the same site and is due to go into operation in October after years of delays.
There are still unanswered questions about the government airport, for example. “Only when the conditions at Schönefeld Airport have been resolved by mutual agreement can a decision be taken on the temporary closure of Tegel Airport,” the Federal Ministry said. In two weeks, the shareholders want to talk about it again.
On Wednesday morning, the Supervisory Board voted without any votes against to decommission Tegel. “For me, the Supervisory Board is the authoritative body,” said Lütke Daldrup. Opinions on Tegel differ in the Berlin Chamber of Deputies. For example, the CDU wants to keep the airport in operation. In the SPD, on the other hand, there are votes to close Tegel permanently.
The airport company is facing three-digit million-dollar revenue losses as a a cost from the Corona crisis. Most recently, only about 1000 passengers flew at Berlin’s Tegel and Schönefeld airports per day. Lütke Daldrup, however, disagreed with a study that the company sees as a restructuring case, according to media reports. “In the long run, we are solidly financed by the business plan.” The study also contained incorrect figures.
Tegel is expected to go off the grid for good at the end of the year anyway. After several cancelled dates, it is planned that the BER will open on 31 October and the last aircraft will take off in Tegel on 8 November. On Tuesday, the building authority had approved the new main terminal of the BER.