Angela Merkel is not expected, it is not an appointment to hook up. The Willy Brandt Airport will finally go into operation on Saturday 24 years after its launch. And 14 years after construction began in 2006, yes, Merkel was already chancellor by then. Eight years after a district administrator prevented the opening of an airport construction site in 2012, when the 30,000 invitation cards had been sent. And now, of all times, in 2020, when you can start, the BER is the least needed. Because hardly anyone flies. There is something tragic and typical about taking off into lockdown. After all, it is not a ruin in the Brandenburg sands. Check it off, now look ahead?
There is no reason to cheer. Nonetheless, there is respect for those who saved the man said to be dead: this is the largely unknown terminal construction manager Peter Herrmann, who never wanted to be in the spotlight and just did his job. This applies to Managing Director Engelbert Lütke Daldrup and the Supervisory Board Rainer Bretschneider. There are two ex-secretaries of state, two Prussian officials, who have taken hold of what had all failed before, one manager after another, heads of technology, heads of government. BER’s ancestral gallery is long.
The price is high, too high
Here we go. But the price is high, too high, because of the lost years, because of the money. At the gates of Berlin is one of the smallest but most expensive metropolitan airports in the world. Two airports could have been built for seven billion euros. And because most of it was paid on credit, Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government will have to pay huge sums of money from their state-owned company, which are now in use for BER.
That – even though this legend is now being knitted – is not because of the corona pandemic. It only increases the billion dollar deficit. The damage to reputation for the industrialized nation, the loss of confidence in politics, including in institutions, cannot be quantified. Sure, auditors and committees of inquiry have dissected the debacle, and one in Berlin is still going on.
Effects? Almost No. Nobody has taken responsibility. Unlike the Nürburgring, for example, no one was charged. At BER everyone in charge stepped out surprisingly lightly, it didn’t hurt anyone, neither Rainer Schwarz, Klaus Wowereit or Matthias Platzeck. With proper crisis management right after the emergency landing, this airport could have been completed a long time ago and cost billions cheaper.
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The cards have been mixed again
Where is the flight going now, should it go? No one knows how long the pandemic will strangle air traffic and how aviation will continue after that. The old Schönefeld Airport could be closed immediately, as the BER – and the brand new additional terminal next to it – will last for years. The cards are reshuffled at airports and airlines. This is also an opportunity for the capital, which has so far been thwarted in the air, for more intercontinental connections.
But the BER disaster is not over yet: first, politicians must be honest. It boils down to a haircut, another public billion, to avoid BER bankruptcy. Bringing a private co-owner on board, as Bretschneider now suggests, shouldn’t be taboo. And since BER is too close to the metropolis due to a wrong location decision, which will become the “Tile” of the 21st century, you have to deal with the inhabitants differently. There are many lessons to be learned at BER in order to at least do better in the future.