Updated: Mar 11, 2021
After 60 years of operations, Berlin has bid farewell to its Tegel “Otto Lilienthal” Airport (TXL) for good. All air traffic has been shifted to Berlin’s new travel hub, Berlin Brandenburg “Willy Brandt” Airport (BER), which finally opened on 31st October, after a slightly embarrassing nine-year delay and going extremely over budget.
The end of an era
Whilst the opening of operations at Berlin Brandenburg Airport was relieving for many, Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller described the closure of Tegel Airport as “heartbreaking” for the city. Despite being rough around the edges, Tegel Airport had a special place in the heart of many Berliners and its closure marked the end of an era. For many residents of West Berlin during the Cold War, Tegel was a symbol of freedom and escape.
On 8th November, Berlin Tegel’s final commercial flight, an Air France jet to Paris Charles de Gaulle, took off at 3 p.m., marking the airport’s permanent closure. This last flight was a tribute to the first commercial flight, an Air France jet from Paris to Tegel, flown from the airport in 1960.
Berlin Tegel was built in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift, taking only 90 days to be completed, due to the pressing need to transport large amounts of supplies to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade. The city of Berlin ordered the construction of a 2,500-meter-long runway and the first plane to land in Tegel held eight tonnes of cheese in its hold!
In the 1960s, Tegel’s famous hexagonal terminal was constructed. In 1975, Tegel Airport replaced Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport (THF) as West Berlin’s main airport, as Tempelhof’s runways were proving too short for bigger planes. The airport couldn’t handle increased air traffic and had passenger capacity problems.
Tegel Airport was designed to accommodate 2.5 million passengers a year but eventually received more than 20 million. Unfortunately, in recent years, this resulted in a congested, drab and outdated terminal building. Due to its deterioration, Tegel Airport was originally due to close in 2012, to make way for Berlin Brandenburg Airport. However, due to delays in the construction of the new airport, Tegel Airport stood in to carry on air operations.
On 31st October, Berlin Brandenburg Airport was inaugurated, starting its first day of regular operations on 1st November. EasyJet and Lufthansa performed the two inaugural arrivals at the airport on 31st October, marking the airport’s grand opening.