Berlin’s $7 Billion Airport Finally Opens in the Depths of a Crisis

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  • Bloomberg QuickTake: Now published this video item, entitled “Berlin’s $7 Billion Airport Finally Opens in the Depths of a Crisis” – below is their description.

    Berlin’s new airport will finally welcome passengers after an eight-year delay, opening its doors just as fallout from the coronavirus hammers travel demand. The limestone floors have been polished smooth, the ticket counters buffed and shops stocked with wares as the Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport — known by its airport code BER — prepares for its inaugural flight on Saturday. But the facility will just be a stunted version of the original plan. A second terminal won’t open for now because it’s not needed in the midst of the crisis. “No one would build a new airport now,” said Cord Schellenberg, a Hamburg-based aviation analyst. “But maybe that’s the airport’s opportunity — it’s getting somewhat of a soft opening, giving authorities time to ensure all is running smoothly.” The airport’s history is an embarrassing tale for Germany’s exalted reputation for punctuality and engineering prowess. Construction started in 2006, and the planned launch in June 2012 was scrapped just weeks in advance, with moving trucks ready to roll and tickets issued. Initially, authorities blamed the postponement on fire-safety issues, and claimed the hiccup would be fixed within a few months. But deeper planning disasters gradually came to light, and the opening was pushed back multiple times in the following years. Defects included automatic doors that lacked electricity, escalators that were too short, and a smoke-extraction system so complex, yet ineffective, it was dubbed “the Monster.” The project’s costs have tripled to more than 6 billion euros ($7 billion), and the fiasco contributed to the departure of Klaus Wowereit as mayor of Berlin — the colorful politician who coined the description of the German capital as “poor, but sexy.” Aside from forcing Berlin travelers to land at aging Cold War facilities, the long delay created other hassles. To keep air flowing and limit mold growth, empty trains had been running through a deserted station in the basement of the facility’s glass-clad terminal. Even with the pandemic, Berlin desperately needs a modern airport that reflects the city’s status as a bustling center for technology startups and the capital of Europe’s biggest economy. It also surpassed Rome as Europe’s third-most visited city in 2014, increasing calls for a new facility.

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