Berlin airport opening delayed until 2013: paper

BERLIN Wed May 16, 2012 6:24am EDT

Workers talk in the terminal building of the new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport outside Berlin May 12, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Workers talk in the terminal building of the new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport outside Berlin May 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin's new airport will not now open until 2013 due to fire regulations, German paper Bild reported on Wednesday, heaping further embarrassment on authorities who had said the hold-up would only stretch to three months.

The capital's long-awaited new airport had been due to open on June 3, replacing two from the Cold War era. But just weeks before its launch date the operators said Berlin-Brandenburg airport would not be ready in time.

Bild cited a letter from a building regulation agency to the airport's technical chief, Manfred Koertgen, warning that any interim safety measures would not suffice to secure approval.

"We won't be able to get a fully automatic system in place that quickly. That rules out an opening this year," an airport official told the paper.

It would then make most sense to open the airport when airlines introduce their summer 2013 flight plan from end-March next year, added the official quoted by Bild.

A spokesman for the airport declined to comment but noted that the Berlin-Brandenburg supervisory board was meeting later on Wednesday. "We expect that the board meeting will result in a time plan," he said.

The opening of what will be Germany's third largest airport after Frankfurt and Munich has been postponed once already.

Keeping the two older airports, Tegel and Schoenefeld, open will cost about 15 million euros ($19.5 million) a month and airlines that have been selling tickets for flights from Berlin-Brandenburg for months face additional costs.

The 2.5-billion-euro airport initially aims to attract up to 27 million passengers annually, which will make it about half the size of Germany's main airport in Frankfurt and less than a third of the size of the world's busiest airport in Atlanta.

One of the first challenges for the airport was to be handling passengers travelling to for the Euro soccer championship next month in Poland and Ukraine.

A spokesman for national carrier Lufthansa said: "The airport should only be opened if stable and safe flight operations can be provided. It would be a bigger catastrophe if a new date was named now that would have to be postponed again."

Germany's second largest carrier Air Berlin said it expected a decision during the day. CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said on Tuesday it made sense for the airport to open after the summer season to coincide with the change to the winter schedule.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Edited by Stephen Brown)

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