Europe > Central Europe > Germany > Brandenburg > Berlin Brandenburg International Airport
Berlin Brandenburg International Airport commonly referred to by its IATA code, BER IATA is in Schönefeld, Brandenburg just south of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It opened in late 2020 and is the third busiest airport in the country after Frankfurt airport and Munich airport.
The official name Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt after Willy Brandt, who was mayor of West Berlin from 1957 to 1966 and chancellor of West Germany from 1969 to 1974, is virtually only ever used in formal official communication but it also adorns the main terminal in big letters, similarly to defunct Flughafen Berlin Tegel "Otto Lilienthal".
Due to West Berlin's special situation during the Cold War as a western-aligned "island" in the midst of the Soviet Occupation Zone and later the GDR ("East Germany") the city had no less than four airports – one for each of the Allied Powers and at least in theory the airfield in Johannisthal (inside East Berlin), though it saw no flights from the 1950s till its official closure in the 1990s.
While this situation served the needs of the Allied powers during the Cold War, it became apparent very early on in the process of reunification that a pretty drastic change would have to be undertaken to accommodate the newly re-emerged capital of a reunified and resurgent Germany. Tempelhof (the former airport of the American sector), Gatow (the airfield in the British sector, mostly used for military and other governmental flights) and Johannisthal were officially shut down in the mid 1990s and 2008 (THF) while the former "Zentralflughafen" of the GDR Berlin-Schönefeld just outside the city limits was to be extended and converted into the new single airport for all of Berlin with the former airport of the French sector, Tegel, shutting down shortly after the opening of the new airport.
However, while this plan may have been a good idea in theory, putting this concept into practice turned into the biggest public slow-moving trainwreck in the history of reunified Germany. First the representatives of the owners of the airport (the Land Brandenburg, the federal government and the Land Berlin) rejected the expansion plans the GDR government had drawn up for their Zentralflughafen Schönefeld, which had never been put into practice. Instead they drew up their own plans and rejected a proposal by a private company to build the entire project for two billions — after all, they knew better how to build an airport, so they broke ground in 2006 eyeing an opening date at the end of that decade or the beginning of the next. And that's where the real trouble began.
A planned opening in 2011 – Air Berlin had already sold thousands of tickets via their "new hub" BER, celebrities from near and far had already been invited and the champagne was in danger of getting stale – had to be canceled at the last minute due to some issue with the smoke management system. No matter, a new opening date was set, as surely such a problem could be resolved in a few months, right? Except the problems kept mounting and mounting. Several managers in charge of the airport had to be sacked (one of them had sued the airport authority in his position as head of Air Berlin only to later defend his new employer in the lawsuit against his old one) and the mounting problems made Berlin the laughing stock of Germany and severely called into question Germany's reputation for efficient engineering and punctuality.
Ultimately costs ballooned to well over six billion euros and the opening date was put off to October 31, 2020. Air Berlin meanwhile went bankrupt well before the airport opened, and some blame its demise in part on its inability to operate out of a Berlin airport designed as a major hub for 21st-century air travel.
Having opened in the middle of a global pandemic and a downturn in air travel unprecedented in peacetime, the concerns of it not offering enough capacity seem oddly remote and it helped that the airport didn't have to open to normal loads while the last kinks were smoothed out.
The airport has two separate terminal buildings, with one train station for each. One is the old terminal of Schönefeld Airport, renamed "Terminal 5", and the other contains Terminals 1 and 2, and will eventually be extended with additional Terminals 3 and 4. There are shuttle buses operated by the airport between the two buildings and the S-Bahn serves both, but there is no straightforward way to walk between them.
Virtually all legacy carriers fly out of Terminals 1 and 2. Low cost carriers like Ryanair tend to fly out of Terminal 5. Check your ticket so that you don't show up at the wrong building. Due to the bankruptcy of Air Berlin there is no airline with a hub at BER but a fair few international airlines offer direct service to their respective hubs and both Lufthansa-owned Eurowings and the independent LCCs Easyjet and Ryanair serve quite an extensive network of destinations from BER. Intercontinental flights are offered by Scoot to Singapore Changi Airport, Hainan airlines to Beijing Capital Airport and United to Newark Liberty Airport.
Fare Zone C
The Berlin public transit ticketing is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, but when your only (or first) trip on public transit is the one to/from the airport, it can be a bit daunting. The essence is this: There are three fare zones in Berlin, A,B and C. Zone A covers the central parts of Berlin inside the S-Bahn Ring, Zone B covers everything else inside the city limits and Zone C covers adjacent suburbs. The airport is in Zone C as it sits just across the state line. The only tickets valid for travel to the airport are those valid in ABC and those valid in BC. Berlin ticket inspectors are very no-nonsense and will not take "I am a Tourist who doesn't know better" as an excuse so double check to have the correct ticket.
The main station serving Terminals 1 and 2 is served both by DB Intercity trains and local Regional-Express (RE) and "Flughafen-Express" (FEX) trains. If you have to get to Terminal 5, change to an S-Bahn or a bus.
Depending on where you are headed, there are two train stations serving the airport. If your flight leaves from Terminal 1 or 2 alight at 1 Berlin Brandenburg Airport railway station. if your flight leaves from Terminal 5 alight at 2 Flughafen BER - Terminal 5 station. both stations are served by and
From the southeastern terminus of 3 Rudow. there is an express bus X7 that serves both terminal buildings. From the southern endpoint of at 4 Alt-Mariendorf. there's express bus X71 which goes via Rudow before likewise serving both terminal buildings. There are also a few buses to nearby local destinations. Several companies operating Intercity Buses in Germany also serve the airport.at
Express buses (with a surcharge)
There are the following two express buses which apply a surcharge in addition to the regular fare (as of 2020):
- BER1 from Rathaus Steglitz ( ) taking about 45-50 minutes and costing €8 on top of a normal BC ticket or €11.30 total
- BER2 from Potsdam Hbf ( ) (scheduled to leave when the RE doesn't and vice versa) which costs €6 on top of a normal BC ticket or €9.30 total. This bus also serves intermediate stops in Stahnsdorf and Teltow ( ) and takes roughly an hour to get from Potsdam to the airport.
Both express buses are operated with a separate fleet of buses more akin to long distance intercity buses which have more space for luggage. They show up in the VBB schedule info with a note about the surcharge.
Expect to pay €50–60 one way for a taxi to central Berlin.
The motorway A113 has an exit serving the airport and is connected to "capital beltway" A10. However, there is very little reason to drive to the airport, brace capital traffic and pay for parking given the excellent public transit options outlined above. The airport website has information on parking.
There's a lounge in Terminal 1 somewhat confusingly named "Tegel Lounge" after the old airport and designed in homage to it. Another lounge is named "Tempelhof" after the other former airport.
Eat and drink
There is free Wi-Fi under the name "_Free Airport WiFi"