Berlin - The city's new airport will begin regular service late Saturday after corona cancelled a planned opening party set for today and significantly reduced capacity. Easyjet and Deutsche Lufthansa will officially open the airport with a simultaneous landing at 2pm Saturday and Easyjet will cease landing at Tegel at 7pm.
Planes won't begin taking off from BER until Sunday and many airlines will first move to the new airport on 4 November. Tegel will officially close 8 November – it was originally set to close in 2011 with the first planned debut of Berlin-Brandenburg International.
A planned opening party was originally set for Friday with 750 participants and fireworks but it was cancelled when corona numbers began rising in Brandenburg. A smaller opening ceremony will still be held with a limited number of participants.
Visitors may view the train station and surrounding shopping mall, as well as Willy Brandt Platz in front of the airport. Once check-in counters open about 8pm Saturday, the aiport will be open for other curious visitors, with or without tickets.
Airlines have slashed the fleets they planned on keeping at BER after corona hammered travel. Easyjet now will keep just 18 planes at the new location, down from a previously planned 34, to service 46 routes with about 180 flights per week, down from 250 last year from the city's two airports.
Lufthansa will station no aircraft at BER but still have 30 flights per day – half the pre-corona level – from BER, including some as a first leg of international flights that will stop in Munich or Frankfurt. Its discount unit Eurowings will have 70 flights per week with 16 international flights per month, according to newswire dpa.
Discount Irish airline Ryanair has also cut its capacity by about 40 per cent and will serve 27 international routes.
Airport boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup expects about 5,000 passengers on BER's first full day Sunday and another 16,000 per day once Tegel closes a week later. An additional 8,000 are expected to pass through Schönefeld Airport, which is now known as Terminal 5 of the new airport.
BER's Terminal 2 will remain fallow for the moment, but may open in the spring if passenger numbers recover. BER isn't the only airport affected by the lull in travel – Düsseldorf will also temporarily shutter Terminal B at its aiport on 3 November.