Berlin Tegal Airport closes as new Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport opens for business

Berlin Tegal Airport.
Berlin Tegal Airport. Photo credit: Getty.

An airport that's been called one of the worst in the world, Berlin's Tegal Airport, is set to close this weekend.

A relic of the Cold War, Tegal was built in 1948 in just three months. It will be used for the last time on Saturday (local time).

Tegal Airport is being replaced by the brand new Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, which took much longer than three months to build. Plans for it first hit the design table in 1989.

Berlin Tegal Airport.
Berlin Tegal Airport. Photo credit: Getty.

Berlin-Brandenburg was due to open in 2012, but just 26 days before it was due to begin operation, the opening was delayed. Now, 3098 days later, the new Berlin-Brandenburg is finally open for business - meaning time is up for Tegal.

Tegal Airport was described in the '70s as "modern" and "cutting-edge", but travellers in the past decade have been far less complimentary. 

Retail area at Berlin Tegal Airport.
Retail area at Berlin Tegal Airport. Photo credit: Dan Lake

Travellers review Berlin's Tegal Airport:

  • "A meandering mess of terminals."
  • "Why the capital of Germany has no decent international airport is beyond my comprehension."
  • "Dire. Only one dinky stall selling food when in the departure area."

My personal experience of Tegal Airport took place about five years ago. My lasting memories are of its small size, decades-old dusty carpet and lack of places to charge a mobile phone - not a single power socket to be found in the entire terminal.

Rain delays at Berlin Tegal Airport.
Rain delays at Berlin Tegal Airport. Photo credit: Dan Lake

And while I really liked the big windows overlooking the airport tarmac, that view soon disappeared when automatic blinds closed and threw the departure lounge into a depressing low-light grey colour.

In all fairness, as the photo shows, the day outside was also depressing and grey. Heavy rain ended up flooding the runway resulting in hours of delays.

Fittingly, the last flight to depart Tegal will be operated by Germany's flag carrying airline, Lufthansa. The Airbus A350-900 will take off at 9:20pm, headed for Munich.

14 October 2020, Berlin: A man and the main building of Tegel Airport are reflected in a puddle. Since mid-August, material has been transported from Tegel Airport to the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER). Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Berlin fire department will bid farewell to this special flight with a ceremonial water arch, which will be especially lit for the night time departure.

The departure of the final flight isn't simply a matter of the airport's schedule coming to an end, demand for a seat on the final flight has seen Lufthansa deploy a much larger aircraft to operate the service.

The fully-booked LH1955 will be operated by an Airbus A350-900, one of the most modern and environmentally friendly long-haul aircraft in the world.  

Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport
Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport Photo credit: Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport

The connection between Lufthansa and Berlin is strong. The airline was founded in the city in 1926, however flight operations were discontinued after World War II. 

It wasn't until decades later in October 1990 that the first Lufthansa connections to and from Berlin were available again, both domestically and internationally to London.

Times have changed, however - in 2019 Lufthansa operated 60 daily flights from Berlin with up to 33,000 passengers, including those travelling on other airlines owned by Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, SWISS, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Air Dolomiti.

Berlin authorities plan to open a research and industrial centre on the site of Tegel airport.