Airports from Three Different Eras | Berlin Airports, July 21, 2020

Welcome to a slightly different topic!

This time it’s not about the planes but the airports. As some of you might know from me talking about it or from seeing my Instagram story, I took a trip to Berlin earlier this week. While the main reason for that was only one airport, it kinda turned into a picture safari in three airports from three different times. Obviously, I’m going to show you some of the results!
While our schedule on Tuesday was different, I’ll still sort the topic historically and not in the order of our visits.

Some of you might already know, either from real life or from flying to Berlin in Infinite Flight, that Berlin used to have three airports until a few years ago. The oldest of them:

Berlin Tempelhof

Opened in 1928, Berlin’s oldest airport is located in the south of Berlin and belonged to the American sector in the years after WWII. As the following picture of the main terminal shows, the airport was also named “Zentralflughafen” (=central airport).

During the Berlin Blockade in 1948, the airport served as a hub for the planes of the western forces bringing supplies to West Berlin. To commemorate the Berlin Airlift, the square in front of the old Terminal is home to the Berlin Air Lift memorial. The three struts represent the three air corridors the planes used back in these days. Two copies of the memorial can also be found in Celle and at Frankfurt Airport where the planes started their journey to Berlin.

Today, a fair amount of the former terminal is used by Berlin’s police, but the old signage is still spread around the terminal building. Remember the classic design here, it will return in another place later.

As I mentioned between the lines already - Berlin Tempelhof is not operating as an airport anymore. After 80 years, it closed back in 2008. Since then, the airport area didn’t change a lot. As a consequence, the airfield is still present as a public park where you can go for a walk or a bicycle ride over the former runways which still have their old markings (so it’s a nice place to visit as an avgeek even after its closure.)

So let’s move on to another airport:

Berlin Tegel

This is the place most of the people visiting Berlin know the best. Along with Berlin Schönefeld, Berlin Tegel is the main airport for the German capital. Compared to the capital airports of many other countries, Tegel is a rather small airport and has been operating way over its design capabilites for several years now. The airport was established in 1948 to support the Berlin Airlift and eventually got converted to a civil airport while the German government still performs its flights from the north of the airport. The main terminal was opened in 1974 and has quite a unique architecture. When I visited the airport for the last time in 2019, it was overcrowded and really showing the need for a new airport. This time…well, not so much.

Remember the signs at Tempelhof? They didn’t change much here. Just like Tempelhof, Tegel also gives you the feeling of a time travel since the design of the 70s is present everywhere.

A big advantage of Tegel can kinda be seen here. The airport offers very short ways. Leaving a taxi in front of the Terminal, checking in and all the way to boarding consist of not much more than 50-100m. The pic of the gate signs you see here was taken in the public area before the security checkpoint which is located right behind Check-in for all gates. While the design isn’t the most spacious and efficient one with this setup, it really reduces distances a lot.

In the 1980’s the airport, which also offers a distinctive look from the outside, was named after the Berlin aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal who was the first one to successfully conduct flights with his gliders.

What you see here will soon be a view of the past. While the schedule is already reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list of arrivals will eventually turn blank in November, when Berlin’s new airport will open (finally!)(and well, we never know what surprises Berlin will come up with until then)

With the second airport covered, let’s move on to the future at

Berlin Brandenburg International “BER”

As the name indicates, the airport actually isn’t located in Berlin but in the federal state of Brandenburg which surrounds Berlin. It’s located south of the old Schönefeld Airport, which used to be the main airport for East Berlin back in the GDR. This airport will continue to operate as BER’s Terminal 5.

But let’s stop talking about Schönefeld and focus on the…well, most laughed about airport in the world. Initially planned to open in 2011, several huge issues with the fire protection system, escalators built too short and cables that were built in violation of German building regulations regarding fire protection (again) caused several delays with a number of proposed opening dates being canceled again and again. While the airport hasn’t seen a real passenger so far, grass is already growing through the pavement in front of the main terminal (which was found to be too small to handle the expected passenger numbers of pre-COVID times).

The reason I went to Berlin’s new airport was the testing process they started in order to prepare for the opening. Along with 450 other volunteers (which adds up to a total number of 9000 people throughout the entire testing process), I tested the processes in the new terminal by playing passenger for a day. In fact, Tuesday was the first day of testing with volunteers since back in 2012. Obviously, I also wanted to have a first look into the new airport and not only compensate the lack of flights in the current pandemic.
A funny little detail I saw right in the beginning could be found on the floor of the arrival area. With the delays, the costs of the airport exploded as well. But who knows if the costs were only caused by the delays? Maybe the coins that were worked into the tiles in the arrival areas also played an important role?

Our journey started in the check-in area (obviously), which is way bigger and brighter than the check-in areas Tegel offered. However, this design also comes with way longer distances to walk.

While Tempelhof and Tegel shared their signage design, BER uses a completely new and hence more modern design replacing the well known yellow with a dark red.

Just like Tegel, the airport also got a name, unlike Tegel even before the opening. The area where the escalators, stairs and elevators from the train station to the departure area are located shows a (rather abstract) portrait of the former mayor of Berlin and former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Willy Brandt, whose name was chosen for the new airport.

Needless to say, an empty airport also offers various opportunities to take pictures. The following one also gives a view of the new Tower, which is, unfortunately, not really unique since it is basically a copy of the towers in Frankurt, Dusseldorf or Leipzig.

An important airline at the airport, obviously, will be Lufthansa. With its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, it’s nor very likely that Berlin will turn into an airport of huge importance for the airline, other than for a lot of shuttle flights from Berlin to the long-haul flights from FRA and MUC and vice versa. I wonder how long this sign has been waiting to be seen by the first passengers.

During our testing, we also got to drive around the future apron, which was filled with parked airplanes of Easyjet and Lufthansa. The view from inside the Terminal gave the opportunity to take pics of at least a few parked planes such as Easyjet’s Europcar livery.

Our flights to Grenoble, Antalya, Kittilä and Poznan were replaced by some (way shorter) bus rides which still gave the chance to walk over the apron and take some more outside views.

I’m really curious how the new airport will handle the pax numbers of the future since I found a few areas rather small even in this test scenario. But more importantly: Let’s hope it finally opens this year!

I hope you found this topic interesting and the missing airplanes didn’t cause too much confusion, I’m sure the next spotting topic will be here quite soon!

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Very interesting Moritz! It was a great read.

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Nice topic! Hopefully Brandenburg will continue as scheduled to open in October

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Interesting read, Tempelhof sounds like a cool place to visit, I don’t think I know too many other former international airports that are now parks lol

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I saw this video a while ago if someone want to learn more about Berlin Airports


:D
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Well, sadly that’s quite accurate 😂

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Great to read @Moritz!

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It really is! From what I’ve seen there they are apparently working on an observation deck on top of the old terminal so you can have a look over the airport park from there.

Additionally, there are also a few old planes left and the apron was already used for formula E races several times

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Awesome post! Having flown to Berlin a couple of times (both TXL and SXF), it’s great to see that Berlin will finally get a big, modern airport. Both of the current airports has some major issues, which IMO hurts the first impression of Berlin (At least for me.
I hope to fly through BER next time I visit Berlin.

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Modern - yes it is
Big - well, I don’t know. There’s a reason Schönefelds terminal remains active as T5 and another terminal 2 for LCCs is already being built (rushed) in a very „industrial“ design. Obviously COVID helps here but the capacity will probably be reached soon

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Really cool impressions from Berlin and BER. Nearly signed-up for that test run as well, but opted against it in the end, so it’s really great to see some pictures from BER before it’s (hopeful) opening. Thanks @Moritz!

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hey it’s the city where i was born and live!

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Would have been fun to meet there haha

It was a nice experience after having tested Munich’s T2 Satellite a few years back and it got me some nice souvenirs. We even managed to get our Easyjet boarding passes in digital form since the bookings were really referenced on Easyjet‘s servers so we might well have been the first ones to own a BER Boarding Pass on an iPhone haha

Absolutely, yes!

Never knew it’s that real. Really cool!

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If you want to learn more about Berlin Brandenburg and why is all of this happening, I would recommend Radio Spatkauf’s amazing podcast “How to fork Up An Airport


Kids, I don’t really remember if there was any bad words in the podcast, so please tell your mom and dad to watch it first before you give it a try ;)

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We just decided to give it a try haha

We also tried for our Freebird ticket to Antalya but that didn’t work

Also, apparently I’m Scandinavian now

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Never knew you also go by Herr Bjorkkvist…😂

Must have been a great experience anyhow!

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That grass photo is beautiful! Nice work!

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To contribute to a certain level of schizophrenia I even got a third identity for the afternoon rotation haha

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