Is nervousness increasing in Munich? Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU) said the words “BER” and “turnstile” in a radio interview in one sentence before Munich Airport sent out an urgent message a few hours later. It sounded like renewing a marriage vow with Lufthansa.
“The long-term further development of Munich Airport as a hub for intercontinental air traffic” assumes that in 2024, 30 long-range crane aircraft will be deployed in the Bavarian capital – as many as before Corona. “We will experience the dry magic that lies ahead,” airport chief Jost Lammers flirted.
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The promises of love made by Munich shortly before the opening of the BER had less to do with fears of a new competitor in the capital than with a pandemic. Lufthansa is currently hauling long-haul aircraft from Munich to use them in Frankfurt, and there have been rumors of permanent degradation of the smaller node.
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“We’re standing at our premium hub in Munich without being or have been.” We have achieved this together and we still have work to do, ”said Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr. “We want to further develop the best European airport for our customers.” The phrase Kranich’s boss must have heard at the opening of BER.
In the capital, people look confidently ahead. “In addition to Frankfurt and Munich, Berlin must become an internationally important airport,” said BER chief Engelbert Lütke Daldrup. Transport Minister Scheuer, who is closer to Munich due to party membership, even said he would help. “I’m in contact with the airlines.” Berlin is our capital, Berlin must be the center. “
No airline has yet made BER an international hub. However, the idea itself has a long tradition in the capital, which goes back to reunification. Only with the decline of Tegel and Schönefeld, when Berlin regularly found itself on the list of the worst airports in the world with two mentions, did the demand for intercontinental flights subside.
Reviving the old vision
With the new and prestigious airport, the old vision is now set to become a reality during the biggest air crisis. Before the pandemic, very good talks took place with a number of American airlines, and there was also great interest in Asia, said the head of Berlin Airport. “We have to conquer the market in America.” It’s our turn. After Corona, it will also work because we finally have a good infrastructure. “
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The first thing, however, should be to avoid losing the connections that have been made so far. Before the corona crisis, there were almost a dozen prestigious flights in Berlin. These were interrupted during the pandemic. But while US airlines are flying to Germany again, they have not yet resumed flights to Berlin. Some may have stayed permanently, which would not surprise insiders in the industry.
Airlines busy with completely different things
“At the moment, it’s a bad time to talk about long-haul flights in the near future, because this segment, unlike short and medium-haul routes, needs more time to recover from a long dry spell,” says Linus aeronautical expert Benjamin Bauer of der City University. of London. “Airlines are busy with completely different things at the moment.”
The gateway to the world? The vision of the turnstile should become a reality during the corona pandemic in all places. Photo: Hilse / Reuters
For example, American Airlines, the world’s longest-largest airline, flew directly from Berlin to Philadelphia, from where passengers traveled throughout the United States. The connection was temporarily suspended due to Corona. After that, the route was permanently canceled in anticipation of a crisis that would last for years. “We are moving to the new airport,” the spokeswoman confirmed.
Delta Air Lines states on request: It has not yet been decided whether and when flights from Berlin to New York will resume. The route to the German capital is not only missing in the official winter flight schedule, no flights are planned for the summer of 2021. In contrast, despite the pandemic, Americans continue to head to Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich.
Only United Airlines assures: “There is no doubt that they will fly to Berlin.” But where it is unclear. The airline also flew to New York.
Asian airlines are considered uncertain candidates
Asian airlines with direct connections to Berlin are considered another fickle candidate. A regular customer of Hainan Airlines has been connecting the German capital with Beijing for more than a decade, but at the beginning of the crisis in China it was traded as a candidate for bankruptcy. In the meantime, the airline, which, unlike its Chinese competitors, does not own a state, seems to have improved. He is already expanding his contacts again.
Scoot, a cheap subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, will officially suspend flights from Berlin to Singapore only until the end of March, the spokesman said. However, the airline has already permanently terminated contracts with service providers in Germany. For this reason too, a return to Berlin soon seems unlikely – although a new Corona travel agreement between Germany and Singapore has just facilitated flights to the city-state of Southeast Asia.
Needed help from the federal government
All this could be just a picture of the corona crisis. “Cards are regrouping throughout the aviation industry.” Along with the development of efficient twin-engine aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 or Airbus A321 XLR, the demand for non-stop direct connections will increase, ”says aviation expert Bauer. Airports are already working on a future network of routes for as long as the economy of Corona and Berlin needs a more direct connection.
If the head of BER comes to his senses, in the long run, only some support from the federal government is needed to attract more intercontinental airlines to Berlin. “We have too few flight rights to China, we have too few flight rights to the Middle East,” said Lütke Daldrup. “The federal government must help.” And when Mr Scheuer says that Berlin is becoming a center, that is the right news. “