It is time to talk about the positive sides of the new, and now only, airport of the Germanys capital city. My musings while traveling through this airport triggered this new blog’s creation. Arriving at the airport when trying to catch a plane or arriving at the airport on my return flights made me wonder about the delayed putting into service. This is the first post covering an airport.
There is one other topic that is positive about the BER airport. Public transport allows you to commute to and from the airport at a meager fare. The BVG tariff ABC costs less than four Euros. I do not know any other city with such an affordable price for using public transport for an airport connection. But you need to be aware of choosing a smart travel option. But this is a different story for another blog post.
This is not a new airport
It is fair to acknowledge that the BER Airport is not new. At least when you consider that the airport construction work began on 5. September 2006. The airport has been officially in operation since 31. October 2020. I will not go into the details of the “slight” delay in finishing a standardized building structure of an airport building.
The experiences when disembarking a plane, passing customs, getting your luggage, and leaving the airport are different, not to say unique. This blog post is about the musings while checking-in luggage, passing security, enjoying duty-free food court and shopping, getting to the departure gate with or without customs, and boarding the plane. In addition. But what about arriving by plane? I cover that as well.
Departing from BER
Terminal 1 is the main terminal of BER Airport. Terminal 2 started its operation in March 2022.
The Terminal does not provide many seats when waiting for your airline counter to open. When you arrive too early for your flight, you might find the airline counter closed until 90 or 120 minutes before the departure of your flight.
The picture of Terminal 1 gives you an impression of the dark brown
Do not trust the security line indicator when entering the Terminal. From my personal experience, the indicator displays fake information. Getting in line for a security check and passing security is a game of chance. There is no real guidance or line management in place you are familiar with at other international airports.
Know about public and school holiday dates in Berlin and Brandenburg. You will likely need an extended amount of time passing security on long weekends, start and mid-term of the school holiday season.
After passing security, you must walk through the duty-free shop. The duty-free experience is one of the best I have seen at an international airport of that size. The variety of goods provides something for everyone.
You can pass the shop quickly if you are not interested in buying something for your loved ones.
Finding your way at BER
Finding your way at BER airport is tricky. The typography, the color choice, and the placement of signs follow a design principle that is well-chosen for design students but not for providing guidance on an airport.
All larger signposts are placed outside your major viewing angel when you walk through the airport. As a result, additional floor stickers help you find the (hidden) exits to baggage claim.
The gate signs blend in into the building architecture. Again, the signs are placed to look nice and state-of-art. They are not supposed to help you in finding your gate.
When you arrive at Terminal 2, you might have difficulties finding the exit or your way to baggage claim. Terminal 2 is the low-cost terminal. I assume that there was not sufficient funding for proper way signs.
The signs are even harder to recognize or read when you arrive at night, with the dark font on a dark background.
At least, there is no requirement to walk to the exit in Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is now in operation. If you want to catch a train, you must leave Terminal 2 after customs, walk to Terminal 1, enter the Terminal and find your way to the lower train level.
Free drinking water
You can refill your water bottle with free drinking water using the water dispensers provided by the Berliner Wasserbetriebe. You will find the water dispensers in small niches off your main path through the terminal. Just keep looking left and right on your way to the gate.
List of shortcomings
This is my personal list of BER shortcomings. I will extend and up the list over time.
- Terminal 1
- The glass façade of the terminal faces west and has no shading. Behind the windows, especially in the upper departure area (non-Schengen), the air heats up strongly in the sunshine.
- The pier fingers are not air-conditioned. During summer, waiting in that area after passing the boarding gate is a sweaty mess. This happens mostly when the plane is not finally ready for boarding, but the gate personnel starts boarding anyway to meet their KPIs.
- The toilets have no touch-free access. You have to use door handles, and many taps are not automatic.