Debate over airport closure: The federal government is (still) flying to Tegel

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The Berlin airport fails to close Tegel Airport due to insufficient capacity utilization. This could change in mid-April.

The lights stay on at Tegel Airport – even if hardly anyone flies from here Photo: dpa

BERLIN taz | Berlin Tegel Airport remains open for the time being. The three shareholders of Berlin Brandenburg Airport (FBB) agreed on this in a conference call on Monday. The topic is not yet off the table: A temporary closure is likely to be discussed again from mid-April, as the taz learned from senate circles. The management wants to “prepare further” the relevant application and present it to the shareholders for discussion after Easter, according to a press release from the FBB on Monday afternoon.

The red-red-green Berlin Senate had urged that the airport’s duty to operate be temporarily suspended. The responsible finance senator Matthias Kollatz (SPD) gave the reason for the massive decrease in capacity utilization due to the corona crisis and correspondingly high financial losses. Flight operations should be concentrated in Alt-Schönefeld; Aircraft ready to fly could start from the new government terminal on the BER site, which has already been completed.

As a result of the corona crisis, flight operations in Tegel and Schönefeld “dropped to a level of 5 to 10 percent within a few weeks,” according to an internal FBB paper published on Friday by the taz. A stop in flight operations in TXL would have relieved the airport company of around 6 million euros per month. On Monday, the capacity utilization of both airports had dropped to 2.5 percent of normal operations at the time. “You can no longer justify that,” it said from Senate circles.

However, the federal government apparently did not want to do without the airport, which is considered a critical infrastructure, in the current situation. Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) said last week: “We have to keep both capital city airports open. It would be a fatal mistake to close an airport. The stable basic supply must be maintained. ”The FBB belongs to the states of Berlin and Brandenburg as well as the federal government.

Behind this could also be the concern of giving a signal for a longer shutdown of all public life in Germany by deciding to close Tegel. April 19 is currently still an important deadline: Up to this date, many restrictions, such as the closure of daycare centers and schools, have been limited. If Tegel were now temporarily closed, then for longer than two weeks – that is, well beyond April 19.

Concern that possibly urgently needed freight goods could not land sufficiently in Berlin if only Alt-Schönefeld were available, the Senate Department for Finance vigorously denied: “There is no problem with freight capacity,” emphasized Kollatz spokeswoman Eva Henkel.

The inner-city airport Tegel has many fans: A non-binding referendum in Berlin ended in 2017 with a majority of those who want to keep the airport open permanently. At the same time, there are many opponents, especially in the north of Berlin, which is used as a flight path and – in normal times – is often flown over every minute. For many critics, a temporary closure would have been tantamount to a permanent one.

BER should really open at the end of October 2020

Because at the end of October – this year! – the new capital city airport BER should actually be opened. And both aviation experts and FBB do not assume that the situation has improved by then. The international industry association IATA does not expect a recovery until 2021, which will also take place very slowly due to the expected global recession. Tegel’s capacities would then no longer even be needed temporarily.

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