BER boss: New Berlin airport has money only until beginning of 2022

FILED - Visitors watch an aircraft take off from the visitors' terrace of Terminal 1 at Berlin Brandenburg Airport "Willy Brandt" (BER). Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

One year after the opening of the German capital’s beleaguered new BER airport, its boss has again pointed out the tight financial situation.

“We need money quickly, we need cash,” Aletta von Massenbach told the Saturday edition of the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

The liquidity of the FBB airport company, which is jointly owned by the governments of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg and the federal government, will only last until the first quarter of 2022.

The former chief financial officer of the company had taken over the chief post at the beginning of October.

Her main task will be to lead FBB out of the crisis: in 2020, the state-owned company made a loss of some 1 billion euros (1.16 billion dollars). FBB also expects high losses in the coming years.

“We will not be able to service the capital ourselves for a long time,” emphasized von Massenbach. By 2026, FBB will need a further 2.4 billion euros from its three owners.

Most recently, however, the travel chaos at BER at the start of the autumn holidays was a source of criticism. Due to staff shortages and more complex checks during the coronavirus crisis, there were sometimes chaotic scenes at the airport on the second weekend in October.

The Federal Ministry of Transport has now requested a written report on the first year of operation.

The report should describe the current situation at the airport and what can be improved in the processes, the ministry said on Saturday. The financial situation of the airport company is also to be discussed. The report is expected by November 5.

Berlin’s airport became infamous for the long delays and huge cost overruns in getting it up and running. At one point it had been expected to open in 2012, but had to delay the opening just weeks before the start of business due to problems discovered with its fire alarm system.

That set up a series of delays that finally culminated in its 2020 opening, at which point air travel had become severely curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As reported by the Sunday edition of the newspaper Die Welt, the acting minister of transport, Andreas Scheuer, is also reacting to the numerous other problems at the new airport.

Among other things, overflowing rubbish bins, already broken floor tiles, frequently dirty toilets as well as defective escalators and lifts have been reported at the brand new airport, the newspaper writes.

The management is to comment on all these issues by the end of next week and propose solutions. According to the ministry, a meeting between Scheuer and BER boss von Massenbach is then planned.

In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, von Massenbach vowed: “I guarantee that we will do everything to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.”

The pictures of chaotic scenes had also hurt the company a lot, she said. “We want to make it possible for people to travel and not make it difficult,” von Massenbach said in another interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

Text by Marion van der Kraats, and photo: Courtesy © dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH