Berlin Brandenburg Airport navigates return to growth amid industry challenges
Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) was opened in 2020 to replace the city’s two smaller airports and has experienced significant progress in its traffic development year-on-year, signifying a turnaround following a challenging start in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
During 2023, Berlin Airport, as Germany’s third busiest, successfully increased its passenger numbers compared to last year and streamlined its operations, leading to a more efficient and enjoyable travel experience. The airport has been implementing innovative strategies to manage passenger flow and improve services, which have paid off in terms of higher satisfaction rates and increased footfall.
Berlin Airport’s innovative approach wins top honour
Berlin Airport has implemented several innovative strategies in the past years, focusing on enhancing efficiency, passenger experience, and sustainability. These strategies represent a concerted effort to position BER as a modern, forward-thinking airport. Its efforts have been recognised at the 2023 Airport Honour Awards where BER won the Airport Innovation Award.
Innovative products such as BER Runway, the biometric solution BER Traveller and self-service check-in are some of the contributing factors to its recognition. This modern approach centres around the introduction of advanced security technologies to ensure passenger safety while reducing wait times. It includes biometric identification systems, automated security lanes, and state-of-the-art scanning equipment that speeds up the security check process without compromising safety.
BER Runway enables travellers to reserve a time slot to pass through security in Terminal 1, bypassing queues and reducing wait times, while BER Traveller, rolled out in cooperation with the Lufthansa Group, uses facial recognition to speed up security control. As a result, BER has given passengers the option of taking back responsibility for their journey.
Through digitalisation and a data-driven approach, Germany’s capital city airport has streamlined its operations and paved the way for a more seamless travel experience.
Passenger numbers on the road to recovery
Germany’s air travel market is still recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and has been more impacted compared to others in western Europe as demand for domestic travel is still well below 2019 levels. This year, there are seven million fewer seats on domestic flights, a trend seen across the country’s airports, with easyJet not restoring its intra-German routes out of Berlin.
Nonetheless, BER has seen year-on-year passenger growth, handling 19.8 million travellers in 2022, up 99.5% on the previous year. In 2023, its passenger numbers have grown just over 16% on last year. The recovery phase has been marked by a gradual but consistent rise in the number of travellers passing through BER and the airport has now reached around 65% of Berlin’s pre-pandemic passenger figures.
Alongside the rise in passenger numbers, there has been an increase in flight operations. BER has been servicing a growing number of destinations, both within Europe and further afield. The addition of new routes and the return of airlines that had reduced or suspended services during the pandemic have been pivotal on its road to recovery.
Looking ahead, the forecast for BER is optimistic. With ongoing improvements in services and facilities, along with a strong focus on customer experience and sustainability, the airport is well-positioned to continue its recovery trajectory and handle a growing number of passengers in the coming years.
LCCs top Berlin’s seat capacity
Low-cost carriers are the biggest capacity providers at BER, with Ryanair and easyJet leading the way. The two airlines have 4.8 and 4.6 million seats on the market this year respectively, accounting for some 33% of the airport’s total capacity.
Local carrier Eurowings expanded its operations from Germany’s capital, becoming BER’s fourth largest. During the year, it doubled its network out of Berlin and increased its capacity almost 45% year-on-year, with six aircraft based in the city.
During the summer of 2023, a total of 64 airlines maintained 142 destinations in 49 countries from BER. Domestic destinations were the most frequent, operated by Lufthansa and Eurowings, followed by primary European capital city airports. Holiday destinations such as Palma de Mallorca and Antalya also found their way within the top 10 busiest by the number of operated flights, reinforcing Berlin’s strong demand for outbound leisure travel.
In the long-haul sector, United Airlines and Norse Atlantic Airways launched several US destinations, while China’s Hainan Airlines restored its service between Beijing and BER, which had been suspended due to the pandemic. Notably, Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary Scoot continues to link the German capital and the southeast Asian city-state, while Qatar Airways has maintained its increased frequencies from Doha, enabling a multitude of transfer options to/from Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Berlin to keep airport charges at bay
In a strategic move aimed at supporting the aviation industry’s recovery, Berlin Airport has decided not to increase its airport charges for airlines in 2024, bucking the trend of its European peers. This decision comes as a proactive measure to ease the financial burden on airlines and facilitate their return to normal operations post-pandemic.
Berlin Airport’s commitment to keeping airport charges stable reflects a recognition of the challenges that the aviation sector has faced during the global health crisis. By maintaining consistent charges, the airport aims to provide airlines with a conducive environment for rebuilding their operations, fostering growth, and contributing to the overall revival of the travel industry.
While Berlin Airport remains steadfast in its efforts to support the aviation industry, ticket prices for airline passengers have experienced an increase compared to the pre-pandemic era. The growth in fares at BER has exceeded that of other airports.
Several factors have contributed to this rise, including increased operational costs, changes in demand dynamics, and adjustments made by airlines to offset financial losses incurred during the pandemic.
While the increase in fares may raise concerns among travellers, it is crucial to understand the complexities of the aviation landscape and appreciate the airport’s efforts to strike a balance between economic sustainability and passenger satisfaction.