The Rise and Fall of the Mega Airport Berlin Brandenburg: A Case Study of Project Management
Mega Airport Berlin Brandenburg Crack: A Story of Success and Failure
Berlin, the capital of Germany, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city that attracts millions of visitors every year. It is also a major hub for business, culture, and innovation in Europe. However, until recently, it lacked a modern and efficient airport that could meet the growing demand for air travel.
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That is why, in 2006, construction began on a new airport project: the Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), also known as Willy Brandt Airport, after the former West Berlin mayor and West German chancellor. The airport was designed to replace the existing airports of Tempelhof, Schönefeld, and Tegel, and to become the single commercial airport serving Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg.
The airport was supposed to open in 2011, but it encountered a series of delays, problems, and scandals that made it one of the most notorious public works projects in Germany's history. It finally opened in 2020, after 14 years of construction, nine missed opening dates, and a cost overrun of more than 4 billion ($4.7 billion).
But what is the story behind this mega airport? What are its features, problems, and future plans? And what can we learn from its success and failure? In this article, we will explore these questions and more.
History: From Dream to Nightmare
The idea of building a new central airport for Berlin dates back to the 1990s, after the reunification of Germany. The existing airports of Tempelhof, Schönefeld, and Tegel were outdated, overcrowded, and inconveniently located. A new airport would boost Berlin's status as a world-class city and improve its connectivity with other destinations.
In 1996, a site was chosen in Schönefeld, southeast of Berlin, adjacent to the former East German airport. In 2006, construction began on the new airport, which was initially named Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI). The project was managed by Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH (FBB), a company owned by the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg.
The original plan was to open the airport in October 2011, with a capacity of 27 million passengers per year. However, the project soon faced a series of setbacks due to poor planning, execution, management, and corruption. Some of the main issues included:
Design flaws: The airport's design had to be changed several times to comply with safety regulations, environmental standards, and noise protection measures. For example, the terminal building had to be enlarged to accommodate more security checkpoints and baggage claim areas.
Construction errors: The airport's construction was plagued by faulty workmanship, defective materials, and technical glitches. For example, the fire safety system was not functional, the sprinklers leaked water, the roofs sagged under weight, and the cables were wrongly installed.
Management failures: The airport's management was accused of incompetence, mismanagement, and corruption. For example, they failed to coordinate with contractors, supervise quality control, monitor costs, and communicate with authorities. Several managers were fired or resigned over the years.
Legal disputes: The airport's construction was also hampered by legal disputes with contractors, suppliers, airlines, residents, and environmental groups. For example, they faced lawsuits over payment delays, contract breaches, noise complaints, and land expropriation.
As a result of these problems, the airport's opening date was postponed nine times: from October 2011 to June 2012; from June 2012 to March 2013; from March 2013 to October 2013; from October 2013 to July 2014; from July 2014 to late 2015; from late 2015 to late 2017; from late 2017 to October 2018; from October 2018 to October 2020; and from October 2020 to October 31, 2020. The airport's cost also increased from 2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2006 to 6.5 billion ($7.6 billion) in 2020. The airport became a symbol of Germany's inefficiency, bureaucracy, and waste of public money. Problems: From Crack to Crisis
Despite the long-awaited opening of the airport in 2020, the problems did not end there. The airport still faced a number of issues and controversies that threatened its viability and reputation. Some of the main problems included:
Crack: In January 2021, only two months after the opening, a crack was discovered in the terminal building's concrete ceiling. The crack was about 25 meters long and 5 centimeters wide, and it posed a risk of collapse. The airport authorities blamed the crack on the cold weather and said it was not a structural defect. They said they would repair the crack as soon as possible. However, the crack raised doubts about the quality and safety of the airport's construction.
Covid-19: The airport also suffered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which reduced the demand for air travel worldwide. The airport had expected to handle about 36 million passengers in 2020, but it only handled about 10 million passengers, most of them before the opening. The airport also had to close one of its terminals and reduce its staff and operations due to the low traffic. The airport lost about 300 million ($353 million) in 2020 and expected to lose another 500 million ($588 million) in 2021. The airport had to rely on state aid and loans to survive.
Competition: The airport also faced competition from other airports in Germany and Europe, especially from Frankfurt Airport, which is the largest and busiest airport in Germany and a major hub for international flights. Frankfurt Airport has a capacity of about 70 million passengers per year and offers more destinations, connections, and services than Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Frankfurt Airport also has a better reputation and image than Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which is still associated with delays, scandals, and failures.
Features: From Boring to Brilliant
Despite its problems, the airport also has some features that make it attractive and impressive for travelers and visitors. The airport is designed to be modern, spacious, and comfortable, with a range of facilities and amenities that cater to different needs and preferences. Some of the main features include:
Terminal: The airport's main terminal is a six-story building that covers an area of about 360,000 square meters. It has two piers that extend from the main building and connect to four concourses with 85 boarding gates. The terminal has a glass facade that allows natural light and offers views of the airfield. The terminal also has a large check-in hall, a central security area, a shopping plaza, a food court, a conference center, a hotel, and a railway station.
Runways: The airport has two parallel runways that are separated by about 1.9 kilometers. The runways are each about 4 kilometers long and can accommodate all types of aircrafts, including large ones like the Airbus A380. The runways are equipped with advanced navigation and lighting systems that allow safe and efficient operations in all weather conditions. The runways also have noise abatement procedures that reduce the impact on nearby residents.
Sustainability: The airport is committed to sustainability and environmental protection, with various measures and initiatives that aim to reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption. For example, the airport uses renewable energy sources like solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and biomass boilers. It also has a rainwater harvesting system that collects and reuses water for irrigation and cooling. It also has an electric vehicle fleet that transports passengers and staff within the airport area.
Future Plans: From Potential to Reality
The airport has ambitious plans for its future development and expansion, with a vision to become one of the leading airports in Europe and the world. The airport aims to increase its capacity, improve its services, enhance its connectivity, and diversify its revenue streams. Some of the future plans include:
Capacity: The airport plans to increase its capacity from 27 million passengers per year to 55 million passengers per year by 2040. To achieve this goal, the airport plans to build a third terminal, extend its existing terminals, add more boarding gates, parking spaces, baggage handling systems, and security checkpoints.
Services: The airport plans to improve its services and customer satisfaction, with a focus on quality, convenience, and innovation. For example, the airport plans to introduce more digital and contactless solutions, such as self-service kiosks, biometric boarding, and mobile apps. It also plans to offer more amenities and entertainment options, such as lounges, spas, cinemas, and art galleries.
Connectivity: The airport plans to enhance its connectivity and accessibility, with a goal to become a major hub for domestic and international flights. For example, the airport plans to increase its flight frequencies, destinations, and partnerships with other airlines and airports. It also plans to improve its ground transportation links, such as trains, buses, taxis, and car rentals.
Revenue: The airport plans to diversify its revenue streams and reduce its dependence on state subsidies and loans. For example, the airport plans to increase its non-aeronautical revenue, such as retail, food and beverage, parking, advertising, and real estate. It also plans to develop its surrounding area into a business and leisure district, with offices, hotels, shops, restaurants, and parks.
Conclusion: From Challenge to Opportunity
The Berlin Brandenburg Airport is a remarkable project that has been through a lot of challenges and opportunities. It is a story of success and failure, of ambition and disappointment, of pride and shame. It is also a story of resilience and perseverance, of learning and improvement, of hope and vision.
The airport has shown that it can overcome its problems and achieve its goals. It has also shown that it can offer a great service and experience to its customers and visitors. It has also shown that it can contribute to the development and prosperity of Berlin and Brandenburg.
The airport still has a long way to go to reach its full potential and to regain its trust and reputation. But it also has a lot of opportunities and possibilities to grow and excel. The airport is not just a building or a facility. It is a symbol and a statement. It is a reflection and a projection. It is a challenge and an opportunity.
FAQs: Five Common Questions and Answers About the Airport
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the airport:
What is the name of the airport? The official name of the airport is Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), also known as Willy Brandt Airport (Willy-Brandt-Flughafen), after the former West Berlin mayor and West German chancellor. The airport's code is BER.
When did the airport open? The airport opened on October 31, 2020, after 14 years of construction and nine missed opening dates. The first flight to land at the airport was an EasyJet flight from Tegel Airport. The first flight to depart from the airport was a Lufthansa flight to Munich.
How big is the airport? The airport covers an area of about 1,470 hectares (3,630 acres), which is equivalent to about 2,000 football fields. The airport has one main terminal building with two piers and four concourses. The airport also has two parallel runways that are each about 4 kilometers long.
How many passengers can the airport handle? The airport has a capacity of 27 million passengers per year in its current configuration. However, the airport plans to increase its capacity to 55 million passengers per year by 2040 by building a third terminal and extending its existing terminals.
How can I get to the airport? The airport is located in Schönefeld, southeast of Berlin, about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the city center. The airport is easily accessible by various modes of transportation, such as trains, buses, taxis, and car rentals. The airport has its own railway station that connects it with Berlin's main stations and other cities in Germany and Europe.