Nine-Month Delay: New Berlin Airport Won't Open until March 2013

The mayor of Berlin has confirmed that the city's new international airport will not open until March 17, 2013, nine months after its planned June opening. The operators need additional time to complete a fire safety system.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit sits on a sign at Berlin's BER Airport, whose opening has been delayed until next year. Zoom
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Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit sits on a sign at Berlin's BER Airport, whose opening has been delayed until next year.

The city of Berlin announced on Thursday that the German capital's new international airport will first open on March 17, 2013, more than nine months after its previously planned June opening. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said an earlier opening would not be possible because of technical reasons.

On Tuesday of last week, the city announced it would delaythe airport's planned June 3 opening by an unspecified amount of time. The delay is the second for the airport, which had previously been scheduled to open in November 2011.

Wowereit said the delay until next spring is the result of several factors including the refusal of inspectors to approve interim fire safety measures planned at the aiport until problems with the planned permanent system can be fixed. He also said risks associated with winter would make it difficult to open the facility in winter. "We will do everything to lead the airport to success," Wowereit said.

Wowereit also stated that the airport's main planner, Manfred Körtgen, would be released from his position as a result of the delays. The mayor said that Körtgen, as the official responsible for the construction problem, should have "recognized things in a timely manner."

The mayor said the working relationship with general planning consortium PGBBI, which includes the renowned airport architect Meinhard von Gerkan, would also be terminated.

'You Could Call This a Disaster'

Fingers have been pointing blame over the airport's massively delayed opening since the announcement last week. Officials with the city of Berlin, as the airport's operator, have also been forced to answer to criticism. In an address to the city-state's government last Friday, Wowereit stated: "You could call this a disaster -- there's no way of playing it down." The SPD politician, who is also a member of the airport's supervisory board, said many companies and people had been disappointed by the developments and he also apologized to the affected airlines.

Wowereit said that airlines including Lufthansa, Air Berlin and Easyjet had informed the city that they still want to carry out the new flights that had been planned for the new BER Berlin-Brandenburg International Aiport at the city's existing airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, which had been slated for closure after the opening of BER.

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