airport serving Berlin, Germany
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Berlin Brandenburg Airport, commonly referred to by its IATA code, BER  IATA, is the sole international airport of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is located in Schönefeld in the namesake state of Brandenburg just south of Berlin. It opened in late 2020 and is the third busiest airport in the country after Frankfurt and Munich. It sees frequent flights from all major European and several leisure destinations as well as domestic services, but few long-haul flights. Berlin used to be served by Tegel Airport, which closed in 2020, and Schönefeld Airport, which was incorporated into BER.

Understand

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A map of all airports that have historically served Berlin
 
Terminal 1 main building
 
Interior of Terminal 1

Due to Berlin's division during the Cold War, the city had no fewer than four airports. The American, British and French sectors of democratic West Berlin respectively controlled Tempelhof, Gatow and Tegel, while the Soviets held Schönefeld, just outside East Berlin, capital of the communist-aligned GDR.

While this situation served the needs of the Cold War protagonists, it became apparent in the early 1990s that a pretty drastic change would have to be made to accommodate the newly re-emerged capital of reunified Germany. Gatow was closed in 1995, and Tempelhof followed in 2008; this left Tegel and Schönefeld as the city's primary and secondary airports, respectively. It was planned that Schönefeld would be extended and converted into a new single airport for all of Berlin, with Tegel closing. While this may have been a good idea in theory, making it a reality turned into the biggest slow-moving plane-wreck in the history of reunified Germany, in full view of the public.

First, the airport's owners (the states of Brandenburg and Berlin, and the federal government) decided to shelve the expansion plans for Schönefeld that had been drawn up under the GDR but had never been put into practice. They also opted to ignore a private company's proposal to build the entire project for two billion euros. After all, the governments obviously knew what they were doing.

Having broken ground in 2006, the project ostensibly advanced quickly, with the grand opening set for 2011. But the discovery of a design fault in the fire prevention system led to last-minute embarrassment. Picture the scene: they had planned the biggest party of the year, ordered crateloads of champagne, and sent out invites to celebrities near and far. Their biggest airline partner, Air Berlin, had already sold thousands of tickets for flights from their "new home". And then they learnt of a deadly health and safety defect, and were forced to cancel. Yikes. But no matter: surely this issue could be easily fixed in a few months. Right? A new opening date was set for 2012.

Except it wasn't easy or fixable; the system was inherently dangerous, and required a complete redesign. From here, the problems kept mounting and multiplying. The opening date was repeatedly postponed, while costs ballooned. Several airport bosses were sacked, and upset corporate clients launched legal proceedings. In one memorable case, the head of Air Berlin filed a lawsuit against the airport, only to later switch jobs to the airport authority and wind up defending his new employer against his old one in court. The entire fiasco was making Berlin the laughing stock of Germany, and all that champagne was in danger of going flat. By then, the airport had acquired the mocking name Fluchhafen - a pun on Flughafen (airport) and Fluch (curse/spell).

Nine years, six billion euros and one bankrupted Air Berlin later, Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt finally opened to the travelling public, on the oddly fitting date of 31 October. Which year, you ask? Why 2020, of course! But opening in the midst of a global pandemic ended up working in BER's favour. It turns out last minute hiccups are a lot easier to quell when your carousels are empty and your expansive halls as silent as the grave. Luckily, with the throngs gradually returning as of 2022, many teething problems have been fixed.

The official name of the airport -Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt- after Willy Brandt, mayor of West Berlin from 1957 to 1966 and chancellor of West Germany from 1969 to 1974, is virtually only ever used in formal official communication, but it also adorns the main terminal in big letters, similarly to defunct Berlin Tegel Airport Otto Lilienthal.

Terminals

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The airport has one terminal building containing Terminals 1 and 2. Terminal 1 opened after several delays in 2020. The vast majority of airlines depart from Terminal 1, which is also home to most retail and food outlets - it is U-shaped and contains departure areas A, B (both Schengen) and C, D (non-Schengen) on the level above. Directly next to it is the much more basic Terminal 2 which opened as a new check-in area in 2022 to provide more capacity for low cost and leisure flights. It connects airside to the B departures area of Terminal 1.

Flights

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Almost all European legacy carriers fly to their home bases from the airport, it also has a significant number of low-cost and leisure operators. Since the demise of Air Berlin, the city does not have a legacy or hub carrier of its own. Low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair offer the highest number of destinations. Major airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and Turkish Airlines provide several daily flights and onward connections via their hubs. Lufthansa for example has up to seven flights a day each to Frankfurt Airport and Munich Airport (flight time approximately 50 minutes). Most airlines operate from Terminal 1, some low-cost and leisure services arrive at Terminal 2.

Long-haul routes

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Long-haul flights from Berlin have always been sparse, even more so since the pandemic. As of 2023, there are regular long-haul flights to:

Surprising to some, otherwise omnipresent Emirates is not allowed to serve Berlin due to bilateral traffic agreements. Condor is to begin flying to Doha in October 2024.

Ground transportation

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A pictogram showing the train connections available - helpfully the zones A, B and C of the ticketing system are also indicated

Fare Zone C

The Berlin public transit ticketing is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, but when your only (or first) trip on public transit is the one to/from the airport, it can be a bit daunting. The essence is this: There are three fare zones in Berlin, A,B and C. Zone A covers the central parts of Berlin inside the S-Bahn Ring, Zone B covers everything else inside the city limits and Zone C covers adjacent suburbs. The airport is in Zone C as it sits just across the state line. The only tickets valid for travel to the airport are those valid in ABC and those valid in BC. Berlin ticket inspectors are very no-nonsense and not to be joked around with and will not take "I am a Tourist who doesn't know better" as an excuse so double check to have the correct ticket.

 
The railway station beneath Terminal 1

Berlin Brandenburg Airport has various transport connections, some of which are available around the clock. The most common and useful one for visitors is typically the railway network from the main airport station in Terminal 1. Ticket vending machines (which can be switched to various languages, including English) are on the mezzanine level above the station. Both the local transport company BVG and German railway operator DB provide smartphone schedule and ticket apps in English.

By train or S-Bahn

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The sole railway station for both Terminals (1 and 2) is 1 Flughafen BER station.    . It is served frequently by S-Bahn lines  S45  and  S9 . It is also served by frequent regional trains (RE) and the dedicated Flughafen-Express (FEX) as well as an InterCity long-distance line between Dresden, Berlin and Rostock. Tickets for S-Bahn, regional and FEX services are not valid on InterCity trains.

Do not use Schönefeld (bei Berlin) station (formerly named BER Terminal 5 station) unless your hotel or car park is located there.

The following railway lines operate from one or both of the airport's stations on a regular schedule (not all stops are listed):

  • InterCity: Dresden - Flughafen BER - Berlin main station - Rostock - Warnemünde (long-distance train, ABC tickets not valid)
  • FEX / RB14: (Wünsdorf-Waldstadt -) Flughafen BER - Berlin Ostkreuz - Berlin Gesundbrunnen - Berlin main station
  • RE8: Flughafen BER - Berlin Ostkreuz - Berlin Alexanderplatz - Berlin main station – Berlin Charlottenburg - Schwerin - Wismar
  • RB22: Königs Wusterhausen - Flughafen BER - Potsdam
  • RB24: Schönefeld (bei Berlin) - Berlin Ostkreuz - Berlin Lichtenberg - Eberswalde
  • RB32: Schönefeld (bei Berlin) - Berlin Ostkreuz - Berlin Lichtenberg - Oranienburg
  •  S9 : Flughafen BER - Schönefeld (bei Berlin) - Berlin east station - Alexanderplatz - Friedrichstraße - Berlin main station - Berlin Zoo station - Charlottenburg - Spandau
  •  S45 : Flughafen BER - Schönefeld (bei Berlin) - Adlershof - Neukölln - Tempelhof - Südkreuz

A ride between Terminal 1/2 and Berlin main station takes between below 30 minutes using the RB, RE and FEX regional trains or the InterCity and up to 50-60 minutes by S-Bahn. Deutsche Bahn has an easy to use live schedule available in English.

The RE8 is the only rail connection very late at night and in very early morning hours between the airport and Berlin city centre, it does however terminate at Charlottenburg and doesn't continue to Schwerin and Wismar.

By bus

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From the southeastern terminus of  U7  at 2 Rudow.     an express bus X7 serves the terminal. From the southern endpoint of  U6  at 3 Alt-Mariendorf.     an express bus X71 goes via Rudow before serving the terminal. There are also a few buses to nearby local destinations. Several companies operating Intercity Buses in Germany also serve the airport, the major one being Flixbus.

By express bus (with a surcharge)

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Two express buses which apply a surcharge in addition to the regular fare (as of 2024):

  • BER2 from Potsdam main station ( S7 ) (scheduled to leave when the regional train doesn't and vice versa) which costs €6 on top of a normal BC fare zone ticket or €9.30 total. This bus also serves intermediate stops in Stahnsdorf and Teltow ( S25   S26 ) and takes roughly an hour to get from Potsdam to the airport.

The express buses are operated by a separate fleet of buses akin to long distance intercity buses which have more space for luggage. They show up in the VBB schedule info with a note about the surcharge.

By taxi

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Expect to pay €50–60 for a taxi to central Berlin. Taxis accept major credit cards and can be found directly in front of the Terminal 1 arrivals area.

By car

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The A113 motorway has an exit serving the airport and is connected to "capital beltway" A10. However, there is very little reason to drive to the airport, brace capital traffic and pay for parking given the excellent public transit options outlined above. The airport provides short-term parking in front of Terminal 1 as well as a wide array of covered and open parking spaces next to the terminal - the rule of thumb being the closer to the terminal the more comfortable and more expensive the facilities with parking garage P1 being branded as premium parking (one week for a staggering €199) while open parking space P107 is a basic facility nearly 2 km away from Terminal 1 (1 week €89).

Parking space P4—a short walk across the square in front of the terminal—is reserved for carsharing, and a number of companies have cars there which can be picked up or left there via an app. You typically need a European driving license to be able to use these services. The area in which you are allowed to leave the car varies by company; most serve central Berlin, some also cover some surrounding areas like Potsdam.

Get around

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Map of Berlin Brandenburg International Airport

Terminals 1 and 2 are beside each other and connected after security. There are straight forward paths within the airport due to its geometric shape, however walking times can reach up to 15 minutes especially if you need to walk between the pier buildings containing the A and B gates with higher numbers. Automated walkways are only provided within the Terminal 1 main building, however assistance for the elderly or people with handicaps is available on request.

Wait

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Airport lounges

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There are three lounges at the airport, all in the Schengen area of Terminal 1. The Lufthansa Lounge has direct access to the non-Schengen departures zone above. For travellers not eligible for lounge access, there are seating areas in all terminals, which also feature columns providing sockets and USB charging. They tend to get crowded.

  • Lufthansa Lounge Berlin (next to Gate B20). Lounge for all Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance frequent flyers and business class travellers.
  • Lounge Tempelhof (next to gate A20). This airport-operated lounge named after Berlin's famous and now closed Tempelhof Airport is open for business class passengers of several airlines, including Air France, KLM, British Airways, Iberia, Qatar Airways and United Airlines. It can also be accessed by paying €48 per entry.
  • Tegel Lounge (near gate B17).

Observation deck

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  • Observation Deck (entry from the balcony of the Terminal 1 main hall, next to Starbucks.). 10:00-19:00. Outdoor observation deck on the roof of the Terminal 1 main building with views over the central apron and both runways in western direction. Accessible from the landside also for visitors. €3.

Eat and drink

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Most eateries at the airport are in the upstairs food court of the main hall of Terminal 1, after security but before passport control (for those leaving the Schengen area). In non-Schengen waiting areas, the selection of places to get food is more limited.

  • asiagourmet (upstairs foodcourt after the central security). Asian take-away.
  • Starbucks (upper level of the Terminal 1 main hall, overlooking the check-in aisles). coffee.
  • Carlsberg Nordic Bar (upstairs foodcourt after the central security). snacks and drinks.
  • EsS-Bahn (in front of Terminal 2). New branch of the famous Berlin takeaway located in an old railway coach. Formerly located in front of Tegel Airport.
  • Mövenpick Café (Departures area near gate A20). Snacks and drinks
  • Kamps (Level U1, near the entrance to the airport railway station). German bakery chain.
  • Mövenpick marché Sandwich Manufaktur (Terminal 1 arrivals hall). Sandwiches, hot and cold drinks for takeaway after arriving by plane.
  • basta! (upstairs food court after central security). pasta and pizza, takeaway or seated service.
  • Ständige Vertretung (main departures hall of Terminal 1). Branch of the infamous upscale restaurant in Berlin's city centre. Named after the former West German embassy-in-all-but-name for the GDR and well known meeting place for current-day politicians.
  • Burger King (Terminal 1, public area next to arrivals). 24/7. fast food
 
The central market place in Terminal 1

A selection of stores selling souvenirs, newspapers, clothing and the usual travel necessities, however there are fewer stores than at other major international airports. Most outlets are located around Terminal 1's central marketplace Terminal 1, after security but before passport control (for those leaving the Schengen Area).

  • Heinemann Duty Free & Travel Value (several locations throughout all terminals, the largest is at Terminal 1's marketplace).
  • Ampelmann (central area of Terminal 1). Large selection of Berlin souvenirs featuring the famous Ampelmann figure from the city's pedestrian traffic lights.
  • Picard (central area of Terminal 1). Branch of the upscale German leather goods store, especially handbags.
  • Lamy (near Gate C1). Outlet of the upscale German pen brand.
  • Gant (central area of Terminal 1). Upscale US clothing brand.
  • Swatch (central area of Terminal 1). watches
  • Marc O'Polo (central area of Terminal 1.). Mid-priced leisure fashion brand.
  • Lego (central area of Terminal 1). Branch of the Danish building-block maker.
  • Relay. Several newspaper kiosks throughout both terminals. The outlet adjacent to arrivals exit 1 also has a small post office
  • Metropolitan Pharmacy (central area of Terminal 1 and central arrivals area).
  • REWE (Level U1, near the railway station entrance). 05:00-00:00 daily. Branch of the ubiquitous German supermarket chain.

Connect

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  • There is free unlimited Wi-Fi available throughout all terminals.
  • T-Mobile, Vodafone and o2 provide 5G coverage at the airport

Cope

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  • The nationwide emergency phone number for the German police is 110 and for rescue and fire services it's 112.
  • The German Federal Police Bundespolizei has a station at the airport. Their police officers regularly patrol the terminal areas and staff the passport check counters.
  • There are two pharmacies at the airport, before and after security (see Buy).

Sleep

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There is a hotel directly in front of Terminal 1 (with another one under construction as of 2022) with a few more in the nearby areas, some of which offer airport shuttles, but all can be reached by a few minutes on public transport. All terminals are open 24/7 on the landside area, however seating and quiet corners are very sparse making an overnight stay uncomfortable.

Nearby

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  • The Berlin boroughs Treptow-Köpenick and Neukölln are just across the state line.
  • Administratively the airport sits in the village of Schönefeld in the namesake state of Brandenburg.
  • The historic city of Potsdam can be reached with direct trains and bus shuttles without going through Berlin first.
This huge airport travel guide to Berlin Brandenburg International Airport is a usable article. It has information on flights and ground transportation as well as some complete entries for food and beverage options at the airport. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.