21 MAY 2012

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Article from BTNews 21 MAY 2012

COMMENT: A tale of two airports

Opening new airports, or even launching upgrades, is not easy.  Somehow the two main parties concerned, the airlines and the airport operator, have to be brought together for a common cause and common objectives.  In fact satisfying the airlines is not the most difficult of tasks.  In very simple terms the schedules and the ground handling have to be co-ordinated, and that is it.

For the airport it is very much more complex. 

They have the airlines breathing on them – the local (and sometimes national) politicos; the various design and engineering boards concerned with safety; border guards and security; fuel and other suppliers; ground transport; health and safety.  The list goes on and on.  It is not easy.

Over the years there has been delivery successes with new airports/terminals – Munich Terminal 2 (2002) for example, but many, many failures, some more serious than others.  The original Paris Charles de Gaulle (and more recently with terminal expansion – walls collapsing); Madrid Terminal 4 (2006) and of course Heathrow Terminal 5 (2008) which had problems.  Each one of them was sorted out. 

As you will read in this issue of AERBT (the last AERBT in its present form) due to open within weeks of each other were Atlanta Concourse F and Willy Brandt Berlin International Airport, both essentially new terminals built on existing sites.

Atlanta has met its target date and Berlin failed.  In two or three years’ time no one will be interested in the American accomplishment and Berlin’s problems will be forgotten.  However for now it is cause for celebration in one place and commiseration (and perhaps repercussions) in the other.

Today’s Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport is the product of far sighted city leaders from the 1960s, perhaps the same visionaries who won the 1996 Olympic games for the capital of Georgia, not one of America’s largest municipalities with a population of less than half a million.  It is however the world’s largest airport.  The fine new terminal (whilst not quite complete in some respects) has been delivered more of less on time and on budget.  All involved are to be congratulated.

The former East German Berlin gateway of Schönefeld is currently a bit of a mess in terms of its reincarnation as Willy Brandt Berlin International Airport with a date in March 2013 now being suggested for the official opening.  The late cancellation of its inauguration has been a serious embarrassment for both the city authorities and Lufthansa.  Perhaps it is some kind of retribution for the unnecessary politically inspired closure of Tempelhof, Berlin’s inner city airport (which could still be resurrected).

At the end of the day Berlin International will work.  One could even question if 12 gates for the core worldwide gateway at Atlanta is enough. 

There is no such thing as the perfect airport.  Hartsfield will soon be picking up awards for the best global gateway.  Berlin will probably do so in the future.

Role on 12-12-12 when New Doha International Airport is due to open.   The world will be watching.

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