Berlin’s dreams of flying are bursting again, as has so often been the case since the fall of the Wall, when it took three decades before a new capital city airport could be opened: Now the British airline Easyjet has unexpectedly announced that from winter 2022/23 it will be giving up 275 more pilots and flight attendants, withdraw seven of the 18 aircraft from BER Airport, thin out flights to and from Berlin.
And that after she had already halved her Berlin fleet and staff since the beginning of the pandemic. But why now of all times, even though air traffic is recovering noticeably, just one last Berlin summer from Easyjet?
Hopes in a company from which one had high hopes are disappointed again. The capital region, which is still suffering from the long-term effects of the division, has had bad luck with “its” airlines since 1990: For Lufthansa, which started with great promises, Berlin remained a secondary airport – certainly, with the exception of the Corona phase, where the state line thanks State billions flew at times almost alone. However, your focus remains on Frankfurt/Main and Munich, long-haul routes from Berlin are not in sight.
Or Air Berlin. Well remembered by many passengers. For a decade and a half, this was number one, until it went bankrupt in 2017. The airline wanted to go too high too quickly, took on too much dream dancing, too little sense of reality, quite typical for Berlin.
Easyjet followed. Seamless. Departure instead of collapse, market leader, along with the hope that the airline would become the backbone of BER Airport. The claim, formulated by Head of Germany Stephan Erler in January 2022, to be the “home airline for Berlin, Brandenburg and East Germany” fits in well with this.
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home airline? none. From a business point of view, the departure on rates that has now been announced means turning away from the business model of the golden mean – cheap flights, but with better service and social standards for the workforce – towards a pure low-cost airline, a profit-only company à la Ryanair.
Basically, this also shows how fatal dependencies on individual major players can be, whether at BER or in Schwedt with the refinery, which is attached to a pipe from Russia. Something like that makes you vulnerable, open to blackmail. This also remains a risk for Tesla’s new Gigafactory in Brandenburg. After all, Elon Musk rudely relocated the Tesla headquarters: from progressive California to conservative Texas because the requirements there are lower. Particularly in lighthouse projects, which politicians often rely on in structurally weak regions – BER is one too – blessings and curses can lie side by side.
Germany’s third-biggest airport is too dependent on one or two fairly dominant low-cost airlines like Easyjet, which takes its toll. They secured rapid growth for a long time, attracted by favorable conditions.
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That wasn’t a problem, because the old airports Tegel and Schönefeld/Alt cost little, but earned a lot, which has been fundamentally different since the opening of BER, which cost almost seven billion euros and with the usual higher fees. And with the Corona slump, the cheap terminal for Easyjet and Co., which was inexpensive for Easyjet and Co., also fell away with Schönefeld/Alt.
The numbers no longer match. The business models of the new metropolitan airport and the low-cost airlines collide, which can hardly be resolved. It is therefore to be feared that the aggressive Irish airline Ryanair, which withdrew from Frankfurt Airport at the beginning of 2021, could also call for withdrawal. Reason: too high fees. Ryanair is now also demanding a reduction at BER.
However, BER is not allowed to grant any new discounts to airlines. That was the condition of the EU when it approved the state 1.7 billion rescue injection to avert an impending BER insolvency. The money is now not enough to reach the profit zone by 2026. Once again the airport of Berlin and Brandenburg faces a hard landing in reality. It’s going to be difficult enough to avoid a crash landing.