What do you mean? Berlin’s party joke phantom airport may be opening after all?
Too bad I didn’t keep our plane tickets from 2012 as souvenirs. They showed us departing from Los Angeles (LAX) and arriving at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), which was just about to open. But the launch, already delayed the previous year, was again called off at the last minute. So we landed instead at the charming but small Tegel airport (TXL) that dates back to the early Cold War…
To pessimists, BER symbolizes Germany’s bad developments. Its highly publicized bureaucratic and engineering fiascoes have dented the country’s former reputation — not always entirely flattering — of being relentlessly meticulous and punctual. The subtext is that Germany, whether it’s building airports or algorithms, is increasingly leaving economic dynamism to others, especially China.
To optimists, this too is part of Germany’s long historical arc to “normality.” Germans today are more relaxed about their national identity and place in the world than they’ve ever been. That explains why they’ve also been nonchalant about BER’s travails. The truth is, many Germans have secretly been savoring the airport headlines as a font of gossip. Many an awkward dinner party has been saved by boozy debates about whether humans would set foot on Mars before disembarking at BER, or whether it would be more cost-effective to rebuild the capital near a working airport.