Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt

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  • Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    I flew into BER on Tuesday. It’s a good looking airport, with lots of natural light (almost too much, when the sun is shining in the evening – quite dazzling).

    Signage isn’t great. Perhaps they thought too much would be distracting, but it’s quite difficult to work out where to go.

    For UK citizens, it’s a separate queue at immigration, which is a lot longer than the EU one (usually), and when all the EU passengers have processed, the border control person quite happily watches the queue – no waving forward, so it is slow. Perhaps there’s a reason they can’t process UK passengers? (technology)?

    I intended to fly out this afternoon, but a combination of strikes on the S Bahn, long queues at security and further queues at passport control after security meant I (along with many others) missed our flights.

    The queues at security are simply because they did not have enough security areas open – there are plenty built, but we were funnelled into just 4 – two at either end of the airport. It didn’t matter that your check-in was at one end of the airport, you were simply waved to the other end of the airport for security, even though it had a similar length queue.

    I’d estimate it took 3 to 4 minutes for the staff to process each passenger in the queue, and 3 out of every 4 bags was given an extra check. I have honestly never seen staff move so slowly. Many passengers were laughing among themselves about the speed of these staff, but not me, since I wanted to try and catch the flight.

    For those looking for the BA check-in, it is in area 3 in Terminal 1, but difficult to find, because again, there are few signs and no.3 has two sides to it, one being Lufthansa, and the other BA (or so it was on this Friday).

    As a first impression, I’m glad this aiport was 10 years late. It saved me 10 years of dealing with it. Back again tomorrow morning …

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    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    A few further comments – at 0500 on a Saturday morning it is just as busy, but with more security lanes open. It took me 45 minutes from arriving at the check-in desk / bag drop to get air side.

    Queues-2

    One reason is that while there is a fast track, British Airways doesn’t offer it. You coud pay for it, but only if flying with, for instance, Easyjet.
    This is one airport where I would pay for it.
    Of course that plays into its hands (slow security gets it extra revenue), but when security is this slow, it’s worth it.

    Fast-Lane

    In addition, the lack of speed in processing people is because 3 out of every 4 bags is given additional screening. In my case, it was merely to swab my laptop and my bag.

    Of course we don’t know what threats have been reported, but the design of security is poor.

    When your bag is pulled to one side, you wait at the end of the belt and watch security search your bag or swab it.

    Since there’s nowhere to repack your bag, everyone else who has been selected for a similar process has to wait behind you as you repack. Meanwhile, the staff in relax, chat, laugh or look bored. If there was something to remove your belongings to repack, security would be much quicker, but the way it has been designed, at present, this is impossible. Adding to the delays.

    Finally (I could go on!), when you do get through security, be aware that border control / security can be very slow for non-EU (so that’s UK passport holders as well). Have a look at the screen here just after the shop.

    To-the-gate

    It shows a 16-minute walk to the gate from this point for British Airways. It isn’t a 16 minute walk, more like 4 minutes, but passport makes up the difference and that is just an estimate. If you get stuck behind someone that border control have a problem with you will wait and wait and wait. The final 10 minutes here was finally made me miss my flight.

    Also bear in mind that the only lounge you can use is called Templehof and is by A1 – which you can’t access, so far as I can tell, once you have gone through passport control for C and D Gates (happy to be corrected if wrong).

    Attachments:

    CathayLoyalist2
    Participant

    After all the delays of opening, and even allowing for Covid, there is no excuse for this. Is there some common theme about the competencies of the senior management who run airports that the customer is of no interest whatsoever?


    Tand
    Participant

    I fly in and out of BER at least 2-3 times a month and I have never had to queue more than 5-10 minutes at security. While the security lines in the main hall are always busy, I found that the ones on the sides are almost always empty. Even during the summer holiday rush, there were never more than 5-6 people in line. And those security points also have space where to pack your belongings, unlike the central ones.

    The Templehof lounge has passport control near the exit, so assuming you have time, you can visit the lounge and then go through passport control after that, and I bet there is no waiting at those border control points.

    Regarding the speed, work ethic and attitude of security staff, the less said the better.

    All in all, the airport is the victim of very bad planning, this is very visible especially at the main security checkpoints and in the main hall where I have seen the border control queue overflow into the central hall. Absolutely embarrassing from an operational point of view, but at least the current management are trying their best considering the cost-saving mode they find themselves in.

    With all the issues it has, I’d happily take BER any day over the relics that TXL and SXF were.


    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    Good advice.
    Well obviously these were busy times (Friday afternoon and Saturday morning), but I used the side security on the Saturday morning and yes, it was slightly quicker, but when it is as busy as it was on the Friday, you don’t have the choice since whole sections are closed and you are sent somewhere else to be processed.
    Re: the lounge – it takes a lot of confidence to use a lounge before border control when that border / passport control can add anything between 1 minute and 15 minutes to the last part of the journey through the airport.
    On the Friday I was behind two travellers from the Middle East who took up one window each of our queue. Together they took 10 minutes to process (in fact, they were asked to step to one side eventually), so we had a queue of 20 plus people waiting and waiting. Rare, perhaps, but if you are pressed for time….
    SXF was a relic, agreed. It was ugly, utilitarian, and had a lot of stairs and few escalators, but I certainly missed it last week.
    And finally…. if you take the S Bahn to the airport, allow an additional 10 minutes since you go through the old station (Terminal 5, now) and then the train takes you round the end of the aiport and round the other side, adding 10 minutes to the journey from Berlin.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    sparkyflier
    Participant

    Tom thank you for sharing your experiences. To be honest I never minded Tegal as although it was different, it was small and navigable.

    And re Berlin this was a city I was eager to get back to post lockdowns etc, but your report does make me consider if/how I would get there. And with BA not giving Fast Track and there being no lounge, I would be less likely to choose them. For a leisure break it may be a case of using Avios to get to Berlin and Easyjet on the return.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    I’ve always used Easyjet in the past to Berlin (19 previous trips) and of course it was always to the old SXF.

    I didn’t pay for speedy boarding or fast track at SXF, but when I go back to Berlin I will fly Easyjet, pay for fast track and use my Priority pass to get into the lounge mentioned by Tand (above).


    Tand
    Participant

    BA not paying for fast track is starting to become the norm, it is happening at other European airports, unfortunately.

    To access the Tempelhof lounge, you would have to be flying in J, or have status. There is no Priority Pass lounge in BER. But please remember, lounge first, and then passport control just outside the lounge, on the second floor (the non-Schengen floor). If you go through the main passport control that is located in the main departures hall, you won’t be able to access the lounge afterwards.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    cwoodward
    Participant

    An airport that I would look to avoid for the foreseeable future.
    For myself BA has become an airline that it is increasingly difficult to find good reasons to use around Europe and certainly no longer to/from Asia or Australasia.
    Sad to see the steady decline over the past 10 years of a once significant airline to a point where it has so little to offer.


    AlanOrton1
    Participant

    BA has ‘so little to offer’ ?!
    Maybe for some, though for those in the SE of the UK I do believe they still offer the largest route network out of LHR. Something a business traveller might find moderately more useful than fast track at the largest white elephant of an airport known to man.

    Meanwhile, for those that like to imbibe, AF no longer serves food or drink in J on flights to the UK. Can only imagine the plethora of outraged forum users should BA stoop so low!!


    cwoodward
    Participant

    BA has ‘so little to offer’ ?!
    Maybe for some, though for those in the SE of the UK I do believe they still offer the largest route network out of LHR. Something a business traveller might find moderately more useful than fast track at the largest white elephant of an airport known to man.

    Meanwhile, for those that like to imbibe, AF no longer serves food or drink in J on flights to the UK. Can only imagine the plethora of outraged forum users should BA stoop so low!!

    Without doubt BA in normal circumstances has a large route network from LHR.
    My point perhaps clumsily expressed was to question if BA can any longer be considered the best choice on any route when all aspects the overall convenience and quality of the offering is considered.
    My considered view is that BA seldom is the optimum choice, the prime cause being poor management over an extended period for which there is little in the way of mitigating factors.
    An iconic (once) quality airline brand needlessly close to destruction for no other reason than the short term thinking and extremely poor management over an extended period. Others just do it better.


    blloyd
    Participant

    It sounds as though BER has hired the same incompetent idiots behind STN’s terrible security screening.


    Maaki
    Participant

    … what do you expect from any place organised or planned by Berlin officials 😉 ?
    Obviously slow, un-interested and a general poor planning (BER beeing just the most known example), but good in collecting federal grants for “anything”.


    WilliamRead
    Participant

    The GDR was often criticised for inefficiency compared to the FRG, but it seems that, with the strangely-named Willy Brandt airport, the ghost of Erich Honecker will have the last laugh.


    Frederic
    Participant

    What is strange in naming the airport WILLY BRANDT ?? he was mayor of Berlin (west) for many years after all …!!!

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