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Aviation

Airlines are busy adapting to Berlin airport delay

German airlines are working feverishly to find a way out of the dilemma caused by the delayed opening of Berlin's new international airport. The city's old Tegel hub will be able to extend its lifespan by several months.

Germany's biggest carriers, Lufthansa and Air Berlin, had for months been planning to expand their services and routes at the German capital's new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. But a several-month delay to its opening, originally scheduled for June 3, is now posing major challenges for the airlines.

The new airport will only be inaugurated in August at the earliest because of unresolved fire security issues, operators announced in Berlin on Tuesday. That has left carriers to rack their brains over how to handle the planned passenger load under old conditions.

Air Berlin said on Wednesday it had formed an emergency team of experts to look into how the upcoming challenges could be mastered at the soon-to-be-closed Tegel Airport, located near Berlin's city center.

"The situation is extremely tricky," Chief Executive Hartmut Mehdorn said in an official release. Air Berlin faces a tough fight for additional temporary slots at the old airport. Moreover, the carrier said it would have to individually inform over 1 million passengers about new departure and arrival times.

Logistical exploit required

Germany's flagship carrier, Lufthansa, is no better off. It has to inform an estimated 500,000 passengers about flight changes. But departure times for flights booked over to Tegel airport will not differ from original schedules by more than 15 minutes, Lufthansa Manager Oliver Wagner said Wednesday.

Wagner seemed to take the hassle over the new airport's delay in stride, advising everyone to "keep their cool." He said the delay was annoying, but justified given the fire security shortcomings at hand.

Low-cost carrier Easyjet will be least affected by the delay. The airline will be able to continue its routine schedule at Berlin's old Schönefeld airport until the new facility nearby is fully operational at last.

Berlin Airport Chief Rainer Schwarz announced on Wednesday that airlines will not have to wait long for a new opening date.

"We expect to have clarity on the issue early next week," he told DPA news agency.

hg/srs (dapd, Reuters, dpa)