Berlin Airport About To Go Bankrupt, Finds Water Is Undrinkable

In 1989 David Hasselhof stood atop the Berlin Wall belting out “Looking for Freedom.” Less than a year later East Germans were finally free.

Thirty one years after David Hasselhof stood between East and West Berlin the East’s old airport finally became Berlin Brandenburg airport, replacing Berlin Tegel. It’s a costly reminder of East German-style planning. Requests for proposals to build the new Berlin airport on the site of the old East German Schönefeld went out in 1997. It took 23 three years and more than tripled its budget to over $8 billion.

berlin brandenburg airport check-in desks
Credit, Muns, via Wikimedia Commons

As the airport was developed the construction punch list ballooned to 550,000 items. When the airport finally opened, it still wasn’t right, staff were getting electric shocks and called for the airport to be shut back down over safety concerns. It’s also suffered from “overflowing rubbish bins, already broken floor tiles, frequently dirty toilets as well as defective escalators and lifts”

The old East Berlin airport still has huge problems. First of all the airport is on the brink of bankruptcy and expects to run out of money at the start of next year.

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

…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.

Wherever the money has gone, it clearly hasn’t been invested in clean water, which brings us to the second recent problem: the water isn’t safe to drink in terminal 1 which is host to Lufthansa Group carriers, Air France, British Airways, easyJet, United and others.

Am I too much of a conspiracist to see these two issues as linked, since the airport will be taking a portion of bottled water sales? Stop water at security checkpoint, sell more water, and address the fiscal deficit. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That has to be the worst airport I’ve flown thru. Little signage to even locate you airline check in desk. The security was a nightmare. Slow, no tables to have luggage searched-everyone was searched- no table to repack. Took almost 2.5 hrs to get thru!

  2. Germany has lost its touch. Efficiency and attention to detail are memories from decades ago.

  3. Of course they need money and they will continue to do so. The place can’t handle massively suppressed pax numbers now let alone in a year or so when hopefully numbers have started approaching pre coof levels.

    More importantly. Without a radical, expensive and timely redesign of the terminal building there’s little that can be done to address the issue.

    Had it of been delivered on time then even back then it would’ve been able to cope with pax numbers for 2-3 at best. It’s unfit for purpose in this day and age even, as I said with substantially lower numbers than would be normally expected.

    It’s no surprise that whilst, very graciously imho, his family didn’t request the complete removal of his name from the white elephant that they made clear a strong preference for it to be referred to by its designation or Berlin Airport rather than evoking the name of Herr Brandt.

  4. Berlin airport is a national disgrace!
    Fly through Munich, and you will see that German efficiency hasn‘t died out yet.

  5. Germany is a top country for engineering, design, manufacturing, and architecture, however, the bureaucracy is always its undoing. We see this with the unnecessary delay in approving the Tesla plant. It is still one of the best countries in the world (because of the German people), however, recent events like this horrible 15 year delay in opening an airport, speech being a crime, religious freedom being a crime, and allowing turkey to invade Germany with all its immigrants doesn’t speak well for its future.

  6. @Jackson Waterson – you forgot your “Heil Hitler” I know you have chambered and ready to go at the drop of a hat

  7. @James M—The Wehrmacht didn’t build airports and would not have had any skill for such a purpose. Nazi designed Templehof was built by 2000 forced laborers taken from occupied countries, Soviet prisoners of war and German Jews. Ironically, it was never completed and never used as an airport by the Reich. The forced laborers were freed by the Red Army in 1945 and the site was subsequently turned over to US authorities.

  8. I gotta admit that the Nazi stuff is unpleasant to read. Frankly I’m surprised that you allow it.

  9. @Jackson Waterson
    “speech being a crime, religious freedom being a crime, and allowing turkey to invade Germany with all its immigrants doesn’t speak well for its future”
    Actually, neither speech nor religion are crimes in Germany. There are some restrictions on free speech, which mainly have to do with banning certain fascist slogans and terms and gestures.
    Also, you are incorrect: Turkey has never invaded Germany in its history. A lot of Germans living in Germany today have Turkish ancestors, maybe you found that confusing and that’s why you ended up with some confused idea of an invasion.

  10. The airport has actually discounted water to 50 cents a bottle for all passengers.

    I think they could make quite a business selling beer at baggage claim, though, where wait times can sometimes reach 1 hour due to poor staffing.

  11. Oh wow, we have been blessed with the VFTW trinity. Complaining about new DCA security setup, hotel soap pumps, and the Berlin airport’s finances, all in a row. What have we done to deserve this honor?

  12. @CE – Apparently he couldn’t squeeze an American Airlines complaint into the article for the quadfecta.

  13. They’re going to sell bottled water, but wait, those are plastic bottles we can’t do that either.

  14. Only a low IQ person will spout something like , “The low IQ invasion is dragging Germany to its knees”. Sans immigration, legal or ‘illegal’, Germany would be out of commission with the hobbling Tegel the last of its problems. The racist right simply cannot connect the dots. Look at Amerikkka. No labour source from Mexico and no fruit pickers, no gardeners, no painters, no this and no that. But many whites who benefit directly from this situation hate these immigrants. Germany without immigration from Turkey and elsewhere would fall flat on its face. Gratitude! So, #FatLip, think carefully before you write.

  15. The Berlin airport fiasco sounds like something from the playbook of Biden, Pelosi, Warren, Sanders et al.

  16. @Jackson Waterson
    Hey Jack , continuing to play the racist card. I see you have a buddy in kdogger.
    Shitheads in heat.

  17. @DFWSteve
    More like something from the Chump genius, along with his great advisors, son and
    son-in-law. A trifecta of genius morons. For good measure throw in his daughter. Oh, I forgot Steve Miller. He would definitely fit right in WWII Nazi Germany.

  18. The Nazi and militarized responses are out of line. Have you no kindness in light of German progress (eg Nazi salutes are a criminal matter, with jail time there) and in light of victims of genocide?

    Flow through this airport was for many more connecting passengers than there ever could be. This airport has a lot of origin + destination passengers. Cramped checkin hall, security too small, badly designed, toilets are behind heavy fire doors. 8 baggage claim belts tell the story for arriving passengers.

    Traffic will likely (try) to double, at least, between now and the end of the pandemic.

    Solutions will be hard to come by. Options are

    -adding a new road pattern to expand the departure and arrival space. With the clear excellence in planning and construction, this would take decades.

    – demolish and rebuild a new design. Decades. Unless an existing functional airport design is copied and built by a capable consortium.

    – off site checkin, transport by sterile train to gate area. The delays could be pure hell.

  19. @ Steven M: The new Berlin airport IS Schönefeld – it‘s just a new terminal added to a decades-old East Gernan airfield …

  20. @Chris / Jim / Christian – the poster I responded to is a well-known white supremacist/racist across the travel blogs – I just try to shine a light on such beliefs since only OMAAT has seen fit to ban the mouth breather

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