Berlin capitalising on German low-cost growth; historic Tempelhof closes this month; new BBI ready in 2011

Image: Berlin Tempelhof
Berlin’s iconic Tempelhof airport closes at the end of October. It was the role played by Tempelhof during the Soviet blockade (26 June 1948 to 6 May 1949) that secured the airport’s place in the hearts and minds of so many people. The Western Allies formed the Berlin Airlift to supply the city with food and fuel over pre-arranged air corridors.

Logo: Berlin AirportsThe final scheduled commercial flights at Berlin’s historic Tempelhof airport will take place on 30 October. For several years the end has been near but now the airport really is closing its doors to the travelling public as traffic is focussed at Berlin Tegel (TXL) and Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) and then, from 2011, at the Berlin Brandenburg International BBI airport being developed on the site of the existing Schönefeld airport.

Image: Berlin Airport
Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) airport opens in 2011, replacing the existing three Berlin airports. It will ultimately increase capacity to 40-45 million passengers per year.

LCCs drive recent growth in Berlin

Despite being the capital of the re-unified Germany Berlin’s airport traffic lags well behind that of Frankfurt and Munich, where Lufthansa operates its two biggest bases. In recent years Berlin has been reliant on low-cost carriers to help stimulate demand and according to German airport association ADV in 2007 Berlin was the leading low-cost airline city in Germany, its airports handling some 10.5 million passengers on low-cost flights.

Chart: Berlin Airport Traffic 1995 - 97
Source: ADV

easyJet’s decision to set up a base at SXF in April 2004 has helped trigger phenomenal growth at the airport with passenger numbers more than trebling in just four years. Since 2003 when Air Berlin launched its version of scheduled low-cost services from Tegel, traffic across the three airports has grown by at least 8% each year.

Chart: Berlin Airport Seasonality
Source: ADV

Thanks to new terminal infrastructure at Tegel traffic there is now growing faster than at SXF and traffic in the first eight months of 2008 is up 9.1% across all Berlin airports. New routes started this year from Tegel include Beijing (Hainan Airlines), Dublin (Lufthansa), Florence (Meridiana), Istanbul (Lufthansa), London City (Lufthansa), Milan Malpensa (Air Berlin and Air One) and Palma (Lufthansa). This winter Dutch carrier Transavia will start connecting Tegel with Innsbruck.

Air Berlin and easyJet have biggest shares

Image: LTU Route Launch
LTU (part of the Air Berlin Group) began thrice-weekly flights between Berlin Tegel and Bangkok in November 2007.

Logo: AirBerlin
Based on current schedule data Air Berlin is the leading airline at TXL while easyJet is dominant at SXF. Air Berlin flies to 44 destinations from TXL though over half of its capacity is allocated to the 10 domestic routes it operates. It has recently abandoned domestic routes to Bremen and Dortmund that were operated by its partner LGW and is also ending services to London Stansted at the end of October.

Lufthansa operates just 16 routes from TXL, with 85% of its capacity on domestic routes. The only international destinations served at least daily are Brussels, London City, Paris CDG, Vienna and Zurich.

Lufthansa does not operate any long-haul flights from the capital, much to the frustration of many of the politicians doing business in the city. Non-stop transatlantic services from TXL are operated by Continental (to Newark) and Delta (to New York JFK) while Qatar Airways is the only one of the ‘MEB3′ airlines which operates to Berlin from its home hub, in this case Doha.

Tegel (TXL) Top 5 Capacity Share Schönefeld (SXF) Top 5 Capacity Share
Air Berlin 38.1% easyJet 47.1%
Lufthansa 27.9% Germanwings 20.1% 6.6% Ryanair 15.0%
Air France 2.7% Condor 4.2%
British Airways 2.7% Norwegian 3.1%
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 20 October 2008

easyJet is the dominant carrier at SXF this winter though its network has contracted from 27 routes last winter to just 24 for the coming season. Germanwings, with its fleet of Airbus, focuses primarily on domestic routes to Cologne/Bonn, Munich, Stuttgart and the little-known Zweibrűcken. There are no scheduled long-haul flights from SXF.

Image: Group photo
Celebrating the launch of non-stop services from Berlin to Beijing in September are Dr Rainer Schwarz (Berlin Airports), Klaus Wowereit (Mayor of Berlin), Hou Wei (Deputy General Manager of Marketing & Sales Hainan Airlines) and Zhao Bin (Chinese Embassy).

Time runs out for Tempelhof

As scheduled flights finally come to an end at Tempelhof only four carriers have been operating to and from the airport during the summer season. Brussels Airlines has been operating five daily flights from Brussels while InterSky has had connections to Friedrichshafen and Graz. Cirrus Airlines has been operating to Mannheim while Smalandflyg has been serving Vaxjo in Sweden twice weekly. A number of special commemorative flights have been advertised which will take place on 30 October.


  1. Joe Curry says:

    It will be interesting to discover how many airlines will use BBI instead of SXF and TXL or is the intention just to develop BBI as the sole Berlin airport? replies: The intention is to close both TXL and SXF when BBI opens so airlines won’t have a choice!

  2. wolfgang, berlin says:

    BBI and SXF are identical.

  3. steve says:

    To clarify, SXF and BBI occupy the same piece of earth. Expansion, etc. /relocation of terminals and name change is all that will take place.

  4. Ben Beath says:

    Flughafen Templehof re-opened on the weekend, with the runways and outfield now an enormous City Park. Instead of airplanes — there are kites! Check out some photos from the opening here:

    • Dick van den Berg says:

      Dear Ben Beath,

      It is Tempelhof! It hurts my eyes to read “Temple Hof”.

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