Budget airlines complain about new Berlin airport

5th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 September 2006, BERLIN - A symbolic ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday marked the start of work on a huge new airport for the German capital after 14 years of planning, legal wrangling and political disputes.

5 September 2006

BERLIN - A symbolic ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday marked the start of work on a huge new airport for the German capital after 14 years of planning, legal wrangling and political disputes.

Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit took part in the ceremony at the new site adjacent to the current ex-East German airport at Schoenefeld.

Located on the south-eastern outskirts of the city, Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) is due to open in October 2011, replacing the three Berlin airports currently in use.

But complaints by budget airlines that the new airport ignores their needs have cast a shadow over the 2-billion-euro (2.5-billion- dollar) project, which is expected to give a boost to the economy and eventually generate around 40,000 jobs.

Spearheaded by Britain's Easyjet, the no frills airlines say BBI is designed with an expensive infrastructure tailored to meet the needs of traditional carriers like Lufthansa.

Easyjet complained that its passengers would have to walk longer distances to catch their flights, increasing the turnaround time for planes from 30 to 50 minutes and adding to the cost of tickets.

The airline took out half-page advertisements in Berlin newspapers on Monday, urging the operators "to build an airport that makes flying affordable for everyone."

A spokesman for the new airport, Ralf Kunkel, dismissed the charges, but said the operators were ready to meet with the budget airlines to discuss their complaints.

According to Claudia Kemfert of the German Institute of Economic Research, the low cost carriers have a valid argument, especially "if traditional carriers are not interested in turning Berlin into an international hub.

"The planners will then have to consider how they can make the new airport attractive to other airlines," she told the newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

It remains doubtful whether the new airport will rival Frankfurt or other major European cities as an international hub but it could profit from other routes, experts say.

Its geographic location east of Frankfurt, London or Paris shortens flying time to Asian cities by about one hour, which saves time and costs, according to airport manager Rainer Schwarz.

Berlin has been trying to get a new airport since the 1990 German reunification in a bid to establish the once-divided capital as an air transport hub and boost its attractiveness as a place to invest.

But a series of blunders and scandals hindered early attempts for a private consortium to build the airport, which has an initial target of 20 million passengers a year.

"Virtually everything that could go wrong has gone wrong since the plans for a new airport for the region around the capital were drawn up," the newspaper Die Welt said Tuesday.

It claimed that the taxpayer would have to foot the bill for the new runway and terminals and not private investors as originally promised by politicians.

The airport was formally given the go-ahead in March after a court ended a lengthy legal battle with local residents by ordering airport operators to introduce measures to reduce noise levels from jets and ban flights from midnight until 5 am.

The new airport will have two runways of 3,600 metres and 4,000 metres on its 1,470-hectare site. The terminals will be located between the runways and include an underground train station.

The capital's other airports are at Tegel, in former West Berlin, which has the most flights, and the Nazi-built city airport of Tempelhof.

Tempelhof is due to close next year, but the German national railway company Deutsche Bahn has floated a plan to keep it open for executive jets and government flights.


Subject: German news

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