On Saturday evening, with the opening of Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, an event occurred that many thought was impossible. BER Terminal 1 went into operation with a long delay, which was marked by various scandals. Easyjet made the first landing, closely followed by Lufthansa.
The BER start takes place at the worst possible time for aviation, because Germany wants to carry out a new lockdown from Monday. Johann Lundgren, Managing Director of Easyjet, is of the opinion that the population will not let themselves be deterred from traveling and that better times will come again. With the new airport, he believes that Berlin will take a pole position. Nevertheless: The airline boss admitted that the entire industry will face extremely difficult weeks and months and that the recovery will take a few years.
Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr pointed out that the airline he runs and the competitor Easyjet made the first landing on BER with an Airbus A320neo. In the direction of airport manager Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, he said: “If you had opened the new airport on time, we would have landed with planes that require around 25 percent more fuel, are louder and emit more pollutants. So much has happened in this direction in the last decade and the development is going in the right direction. "
However, Spohr does not want to offer long-haul routes from Berlin for the time being, because due to the corona pandemic, among other things, it is currently not foreseeable when and whether these could become profitable. “In Berlin the problem was Tegel Airport. This was not really suitable as a turnstile and could not meet our premium standards. This is different now with BER. If profitability is foreseeable for us, then we will certainly not leave the field to the competition. Due to the corona pandemic, nothing is foreseeable in the short term and we are therefore concentrating on Frankfurt and Munich. That can change, but in the midst of the greatest crisis in aviation history, our priority is getting through this crisis, ”said Spohr. “It is clear that the Lufthansa Group will be a smaller one after the crisis. There is a need for optimization, but that is nothing that sets us apart from other airlines. We want to keep our relative market strength out of the crisis. A more efficient Lufthansa that will fly with modern aircraft will emerge from the crisis, but it will be smaller. "
The last three years “before Corona” were extremely successful for the crane, because according to Spohr it was “the best three years in the company's history”. “We are number four on the world market and we want to expand this position further. In my opinion, there is no reason not to believe that we will not be able to emerge stronger from the crisis. It won't be easy, but we can do it, ”said the Kranich CEO.
In the last few days there have been increasing rumors that the states of Berlin and Brandenburg as well as the Federal Republic of Germany are looking for a private investor who could join BER. Airport manager Engelbert Lütke Daldrup did not want to comment on this and referred to the owners. Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr has little to gain from the proposal: “In Germany it has been shown that the privatization of airports is not a success story. Munich is a very good example of how the public sector can run an airport efficiently and successfully. Airports are an important infrastructure and the state can also be a good entrepreneur, see Munich. The states of Berlin and Brandenburg as well as the federal government are strong owners for the region and stand behind BER ”.
The next few months and years will be difficult for Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, admits Daldrup: “All partners in the aviation industry are in a major crisis. If the airlines cannot offer flights, then there is nothing to be earned on the ground. It is of course particularly tough in Berlin, because over the past 15 years the volume of traffic has increased by an average of six to eight percent annually. There is upward potential, but due to the corona pandemic it will take a few years before we reach the growth zone again. We use short-time working, do not hire new staff and have postponed investments. In the next few years there will be significantly less traffic than usual, but I am confident that BER can be operated profitably in the medium term. Until then we have difficult years ahead of us ”.
Incidentally, Carsten Spohr accepted with humor that Easyjet, headed by his industry colleague Johan Lundgren, made the official first landing at BER. A parallel landing was actually planned, but due to the weather conditions, the two Airbus jets had to land one behind the other. "Safety first and we are proud to be the second airline to land at BER," said Spohr. Airport boss Engelbert Daldrup added: “It was not symbolic, but practical. The Easyjet machine had a longer taxiway and therefore landed first. "
With regard to the performance in times of Corona, Carsten Spohr said that Berlin is currently doing better than all other destinations in the route network. “The decline in Berlin is lower than at all other airports served by the Lufthansa Group. We are currently 40 percent below the previous year's performance. We were once at minus 60 percent, but Berlin is developing really well. "
When asked why Ryanair and Wizzair fly from Terminal 5 (ex-Schönefeld), but Easyjet from the new BER building, Daldrup answered as follows: “The division was made long before the corona pandemic. At that time, Schönefeld and Tegel together had around 36 million passengers. It was clear at the time that Terminals 1 and 2 would not be able to cope with the high volume. That's why we had to make a breakdown in order to be able to offer all airlines the best possible service. With normal traffic management of Terminals 1 and 2, these cannot be handled by Ryanair's traffic management. That is why we also need Terminal 5. How things will continue in the long term remains to be seen. But with so little traffic it makes no sense to split everything up in the midfield. In spring we will then decide when and whether the capacity of Terminal 2 will be needed. We have invested a lot in Schönefeld in recent years and have massively improved the situation there. "