Air Transport World

Berlin's dilemma. (airports)

BERLIN--With its favorable geographic position and tradition of cultural and commercial links with Eastern Europe, Berlin is positioning itself to become the continent's primary East-West air-transport hub. But a new "Battle of Berlin" is brewing over differing concepts of how to meet that challenge and overcome current capacity constraints.

Would massive investment to upgrade rundown, outlying Schonefeld Airport suffice to replace Tegel as Berlin's international gateway, as governing mayor Eberhard Diepgen argues? And where would a completely new airport--as has been demanded by the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry--be located?

Airport executive Robert F. Grosch asks: How can the gap be bridged until a new airport is built? Christian Weisenhutter of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry queries: Will private investors put up millions for patchwork measures at present airports that may be programmed out of existence before any returns roll in?

Many questions, few real answers.

Consolidated figures show that a total of 7.9 million passengers passed through Berlin's three airports last year, 8.2% fewer than in 1990--in line with the global airline-industry tumble. However, all indications are that those numbers are certain to be surpassed in 1992 by far.

Divided during the years of Communist rule in East Germany, the city reverted to a single entity in October, 1990, along with the rest of the country. Taking over from Bonn as the capital--again--of a reunited nation, Berlin considers itself the natural air link betweek West European centers and the still-groping but potentially promising economies of emerging countries to the East. Included, of course, in the broad scheme of things is the vast--currently chaotic--economic region comprising the Commonwealth of Independent states and other areas of the onetime U.S.S.R.

Deutsche Lufthansa, which plays a major role in this market already, forecasts that transit passengers will comprise as much as 25% of the traffic surge anticipated in Berlin by the end of the century. Manfred Reiner, regional director for Berlin and eastern Germany, points out that even now, LH offers 711 weekly frequencies to Berlin: 535 are domestic routings, 96 are inter-European and seven are daily transatlantic flights from Neward via Hamburg. …

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