As another opening date for the much-talked-about Berlin Brandenburg Airport came and went in 2013, tourism officials have stopped predicting a new date, at least not officially, although the most often-repeated answer is “not before 2014.”
This is a problem for carriers looking to establish a presence at the new airport, most notably Air Berlin and Lufthansa, both of which are dealing with a boom in traffic to and through Berlin at the old and significantly smaller Berlin Tegel Airport. The new airport is set to replace Tegel and Berlin Schonenfeld airports.
Interestingly, a former Air Berlin CEO, Hartmut Mehdorn, is now CEO of the company that owns and will operate the airport, giving rise to hope that the construction and other delays will eventually be resolved.
What would Brandenburg mean to Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest carrier?
“When the airport opens, we believe Air Berlin will be the biggest beneficiary,” said Titus Johnson, Air Berlin vice president of sales and marketing, noting that Brandenburg is slated to become the carrier’s main hub. In addition, the location — halfway between London and Russia — is especially well located to serve Eastern Europe, he said.
This is important to U.S. travelers because these destinations are increasingly on the radar of repeat travelers to Europe.
With this in mind, the carrier has forged ahead and increased its service into Eastern Europe from Tegel in advance of the Brandenburg opening, although Johnson stresses that these services will expand once the new hub is established.
In the last year, for example, the carrier added service to Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw in Poland through Tegel, with easy connections from the U.S. gateways in Los Angeles, Miami, New York Kennedy, Chicago and Fort Myers.
Other Eastern European connections include Bucharest, Romania; Sofia, Bulgaria; Belgrade, Serbia; and Riga, Latvia, as well as Budapest and Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In all, thanks to its partnership with American Airlines and its membership in the Oneworld global alliance, Air Berlin offers more than 1,000 city pairs with some 30 destinations out of Berlin, Johnson said, with numerous flights also available through Dusseldorf.
As to adding new U.S. gateways, Johnson said none are immediately on the horizon, with U.S. expansion focused more on added frequency of service out of the East Coast, particularly from Miami and Kennedy, as well as services geared toward business travelers, like the new flat-bed business-class cabin.
In a push to reach out to travel agents, Johnson also said the company offers fam trips and marketing the incentive agreements with high-producing retailers.