Berlin Brandenburg International Airport commonly referred to by its IATA code, BER IATA is the sole international airport of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is located in Schönefeld in the namesake state of Brandenburg just south of Berlin. It opened in late 2020 and is the third busiest airport in the country after Frankfurt and Munich. It sees frequent flights to all major European and several leisure destinations as well as domestic services, but few long-haul connections. Berlin used to be served by Tegel Airport, which closed in 2020, and Schönefeld Airport, which was incorporated into BER.
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 Berlin Tegel Airport Otto Lilienthal.
Due to Berlin's division during the Cold War, the city had no fewer than four airports. The American, British and French sectors of democratic West Berlin respectively controlled Tempelhof, Gatow and Tegel, while the Soviets held Schönefeld, just outside East Berlin, capital of the communist-aligned GDR.
While this situation served the needs of the Cold War protagonists, it became apparent in the early 1990s that a pretty drastic change would have to be made to accommodate the newly re-emerged capital of reunified Germany. Gatow was shut down in 1995, and Tempelhof followed in 2008; this left Tegel and Schönefeld as the city's primary and secondary airports, respectively. It was planned that Schönefeld would be extended and converted into a new single airport for all of Berlin, with Tegel shutting down shortly thereafter. While this may have been a good idea in theory, making it a reality turned into the biggest slow-moving plane-wreck in the history of reunified Germany, and in full view of the public.
First, the airport's owners (the states of Brandenburg and Berlin, and the federal government) decided to shelve the expansion plans for Schönefeld originally drawn up under the GDR, which had never been put into practice. They also opted to ignore a private company's proposal to build the entire project for two billion euros. After all, the governments obviously knew what they were doing.
Having broken ground in 2006, the project ostensibly advanced quickly, with the grand opening set for 2011. But the discovery of a design fault in the fire prevention system led to last-minute embarrassment. Picture the scene: they had planned the biggest party of the year, ordered crateloads of champagne, and sent out invites to celebrities near and far. Their biggest airline partner, Air Berlin, had already sold thousands of tickets for flights from their "new home". And then they learnt of a deadly health and safety defect, and were forced to cancel. Yikes. But no matter: surely this issue could be easily fixed in a few months. Right? A new opening date was set for 2012.
Except it wasn't easy or fixable; the system was inherently dangerous, and required an entire redesign. From here, the problems kept mounting and multiplying. The opening date was repeatedly postponed, while costs ballooned. Several airport bosses were sacked, and upset corporate clients launched legal proceedings. In one memorable case, the head of Air Berlin filed a lawsuit against the airport, only to later switch jobs to the airport authority and wind up defending his new employer against his old one in court. The entire fiasco was making Berlin the laughing stock of Germany, and all that champagne was in danger of going flat.
Nine years, six billion euros and one bankrupted Air Berlin later, Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt finally opened to the travelling public, on the oddly fitting date of 31 October. Which year, you ask? Why 2020, of course! But opening in the midst of a global pandemic ended up working in BER's favour. It turns out last minute hiccups are a lot easier to quell when your carousels are empty and your expansive halls as silent as the grave. Luckily, with the throngs gradually returning as of 2022, all teething problems have been fixed and BER is making an admirable attempt at restoring the world's confidence in German efficiency and punctuality.
The airport has two separate terminal buildings, with one train station for each; Terminals 1/2 and Terminal 5. Terminal 1 opened after several delays in 2020. From there the vast majority of airlines depart and it is also the place to find most retail and food outlets - it is formed as a U-shape and contains departure areas A, B (both Schengen) and C, D (non-Schengen) on the level above. Directly next to it is the much more basic Terminal 2 which opened as a new check-in area in 2022 to provide increased capacity for low cost and leisure flights. It connects airside to the B departures area of Terminal 1.
Terminal 5 is actually the rebranded and refurbished former Schönefeld Airport to the north of the new facilities with no practical way to walk between them - there are frequent public transport connections though. Terminal 5 was supposed to be used for low-cost carriers, however it remains closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airport is served by almost all European legacy carriers from their respective home bases and also sees a significant number of low-cost operations and leisure flights. Since the demise of Air Berlin, the city does not have a legacy or hub carrier of its own with low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair offering the highest number of destinations instead. Major airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and Turkish Airlines provide several daily flights and onward connections via their hubs - e.g. German flag carrier Lufthansa has up to seven daily flights each to Frankfurt Airport and Munich Airport with worldwide onward connections (flight time approximately 50 minutes). As Terminal 5 remains closed, most airlines operate out of Terminal 1 with some low-cost and leisure services departing from Terminal 2 directly next to it.
Intercontinental long-haul flights from Berlin have always been sparse, even more so since the pandemic. However, there have been announcements regarding a few new or resuming services. As of 2022, there are regular long-haul connections to the following destinations:
- Beijing-Capital (Hainan Airlines from 12 August 2022)
- Doha (Qatar Airways)
- Los Angeles (Norse Atlantic Airways from 19 August 2022)
- Newark (United Airlines)
- New York-JFK (Norse Atlantic Airways from 17 August 2022 & Delta Air Lines from 26 May 2023)
- Singapore (Scoot)
- Washington, D.C. (United Airlines from 25 May 2023)
Surprising to some, otherwise omnipresent Emirates is not allowed to serve Berlin due to bilateral traffic agreements.
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 not to be joked around with and will not take "I am a Tourist who doesn't know better" as an excuse so double check to have the correct ticket.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport has a wide variety of transport connections, some of which are available around the clock. The most common and useful one for visitors should be using the railway network from the main airport station located in the attic of Terminal 1. There are ticket vending machines located on the mezzanine level above the station which are available in English. Both the local transport company BVG and German railway operator DB also provide smartphone schedule and ticket apps in English as well.
By train or S-Bahn
If your flight leaves from Terminal 1 or 2 alight at 1 Flughafen BER - Terminal 1-2 station. . It is frequently served by S-Bahn lines and . It is also served by frequent regional trains (RE) and the dedicated Flughafen-Express (FEX) as well as an InterCity long-distance line between Dresden, Berlin and Rostock. Tickets for S-Bahn, regional and FEX services are not valid on InterCity trains.
The following railway lines operate from one or both of the airport's stations on a regular schedule (not all stops are listed):
- InterCity: Dresden - BER Terminal 1-2 - Berlin main station - Rostock - Warnemünde (long-distance train, ABC tickets not valid)
- FEX: BER Terminal 1-2 - Berlin Ostkreuz - Berlin Gesundbrunnen - Berlin main station
- RE7: Wünsdorf-Waldstadt - BER Terminal 1-2 - Berlin main station – Dessau
- RB14: BER Terminal 1-2 - Berlin east station - Berlin main station - Berlin Zoo station - Dessau
- RB22: Königs Wusterhausen - BER Terminal 1-2 - Potsdam
- : BER Terminal 1-2 - BER Terminal 5 - Berlin east station - Alexanderplatz - Friedrichstraße - Berlin main station - Berlin Zoo station - Charlottenburg - Spandau
- : BER Terminal 1-2 - BER Terminal 5 - Adlershof - Neukölln - Tempelhof - Südkreuz
A ride between Terminal 1/2 and Berlin main station takes between below 30 minutes using the RB, RE and FEX regional trains or the InterCity and up to 50-60 minutes by S-Bahn. Deutsche Bahn has a easy to use live schedule available in English.
From the southeastern terminus of 2 Rudow. there is an express bus X7 that serves both terminal buildings. From the southern endpoint of at 3 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, the major one being Flixbus.at
By express bus (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 main station ( ) (scheduled to leave when the regional train doesn't and vice versa) which costs €6 on top of a normal BC fare zone 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. Taxis do accept major credit cards. They can be found directly in front of the Terminal 1 arrivals area.
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 provides short-term parking in front of Terminals 1 and 5 as well as a wide array of covered and open parking spaces next to these two terminals - the guideline being the closer to the terminal the more comfortable and more expensive the facilities with parking garage P1 being branded as premium parking (1 week for a staggering €199) while open parking space P107 is a basic facility nearly 2 km away from Terminal 1 (1 week €89).
Terminals 1 and 2 are beside each other and connected after security. There are straight forward paths within the airport due to its geometric shape, however walking times can reach up to 15 minutes especially if you need to walk between the pier buildings containing the A and B gates with higher numbers. Automated walkways are only provided within the Terminal 1 main building, however assistance for the elderly or people with handicaps are available upon request.
As of 2022, there are two lounges available throughout the airport, both located in the Schengen-area of Terminal 1 - the Lufthansa Lounge does have direct access to the Non-Schengen departures zone above though. For travelers not eligible for lounge access there are seating areas throughout all terminals, which also feature columns providing sockets and USB charging, they do however tend to get crowded easily.
- Lufthansa Lounge Berlin (next to Gate B20). Lounge for all Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance frequent flyers and business class travelers.
- Lounge Tempelhof (next to gate A20). This airport-operated lounge named after the famous former Berlin Tempelhof Airport is open for business class passengers of several airlines, including Air France, KLM, British Airways, Iberia, Qatar Airways and United Airlines. It can also be accessed by paying €45 per entry.
- Observation Deck (Entry from the balcony of the Terminal 1 main hall, next to Starbucks.). 08:00-20:00. Outdoor observation deck on the roof of the Terminal 1 main building with views over the central aporn and both runways in western direction. Accessible from the landside also for visitors. €3.
Eat and drink
Most eateries at the airport are located in the upstairs food court of the main hall of Terminal 1, after security but before passport control (for those leaving the Schengen area). There are also some places to get food in the non-Schengen waiting areas, but the selection is more limited.
- asiagourmet (upstairs foodcourt after the central security). Asian take-away location.
- Starbucks (upper level of the Terminal 1 main hall, overlooking the check-in aisles). Branch of the US coffee chain.
- Carlsberg Nordic Bar (upstairs foodcourt after the central security). Bar location for snacks and drinks.
- EsS-Bahn (in front of Terminal 2). New branch of the famous Berlin take-away located in an old railway coach. Formerly located infront of the old Tegel Airport.
- Mövenpick Café (Departures area near gate A20). Snacks, cold and hot drinks for take-away.
- Kamps (Level U1, near the entrance to the airport railway station). Branch of the common German bakery chain.
- Mövenpick marché Sandwich Manufaktur (Terminal 1 arrivals hall). Sandwiches, hot and cold drinks for take-away after arriving by plane.
- basta! (upstairs foodcourt after the central security). Italian food (pasta, pizza) for take-away or seated service.
- Ständige Vertretung (main departures hall of Terminal 1). Branch of the infamous upscale restaurant in Berlin's city center. Named after the former West German embassy for the GDR and well known meeting place for current-day politicians.
There is a selection of stores to buy souvenirs, newspapers, upscale clothing and the other usual travel necessities, however the number of stores is considerably smaller compared to other major international airports. Most outlets are located around the central market place of Terminal 1, after security but before passport control (for those leaving the Schengen Area).
- Heinemann Duty Free & Travel Value (several locations throughout all terminals, the largest being the Terminal 1 market place).
- Ampelmann (central area of Terminal 1). Large selection of Berlin souvenirs branded with the famous Ampelmann, the figure shown on the city's traffic lights.
- Picard (central area of Terminal 1). Branch of the upscale German leather goods fashion store, especially handbags.
- Lamy (near Gate C1). Outlet of the upscale German ink pen brand.
- Gant (central area of Terminal 1). Upscale US clothing brand.
- Swatch (central area of Terminal 1). Showroom of the world-famous watchmakers from Switzerland.
- Marc O'Polo (central area of Terminal 1.). Mid-priced leisure fashion brand.
- Lego Store (central area of Terminal 1). Branch of the famous Danish toy maker.
- Relay. Several branches of the newspaper kiosk throughout all terminals.
- Metropolitan Pharmacy (central area of Terminal 1 and central arrivals area). Two pharmacy branches throughout the airport.
- REWE (Level U1, near the railway station entrance). 05:00-00:00 daily. Branch of the widespread German supermarket chain.
- There is free unlimited Wi-Fi available throughout all terminals.
- The airport has 5G coverage from T-Mobile, Vodafone and o2.
- The nationwide emergency phone number for the German police is 110 and for rescue and fire services 112. The airport has its own medical and fire services on site.
- The German Federal Police Bundespolizei also has a branch at the airport. Their police officers regulary patrol the terminal areas and also staff the passport check counters.
- There are two pharmacies within the airport, before and after security (see Buy).
There is a hotel directly in front of Terminal 1 (with another one under construction as of 2022) with a few more in the nearby areas, some of which offer airport shuttles, but all can be reached by a few minutes on public transport. All terminals are open 24/7 on the landside area, however seating and quiet corners are very sparse making an overnight stay uncomfortable.
- Steigenberger Airport Hotel Berlin. Branch of the upscale German hotel chain, located on the main square right infront of Terminal 1.
- B&B Hotel Berlin Airport. Located near the highway at the border of the airport grounds.
- InterCity Hotel Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Upscale business hotel next to the old Schönefeld Airport, now Terminal 5 of BER. Within walking distance of the Terminal 5 railway station.
- Holiday Inn Berlin Airport Conference Centre. Leisure and business hotel located in the actual village of Schönefeld, north of the Terminal 5 railway station.