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January 22, 2013

Opening of Berlin’s new airport gets pushed back

berlin

The chief executive of Berlin’s airports was fired Jan. 16 following a decision to delay yet again the opening of the German capital’s new hub, a fiasco that has deeply embarrassed local officials.

The new chairman of the airport operator’s supervisory board, Brandenburg state governor Matthias Platzeck, said directors decided at a Jan. 16 meeting to dismiss CEO Rainer Schwarz with immediate effect.

Officials said last week they wouldn’t be able to open the new airport, just outside Berlin, on Oct. 27 this year, the fourth delay, and the third in less than a year. Planners and builders are struggling with technical problems, above all an elaborate fire safety system. Platzeck said it will likely be “a few months” before they can name a new date for the opening. Airport planning chief Horst Amann said the airport may not even be ready next year “perhaps rather 2015,” he told ZDF television. Platzeck and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, his predecessor as board chairman, have survived confidence votes in their state legislatures since last week’s decision.

The new Willy Brandt airport is supposed to replace the city’s two aging and increasingly cramped airports, Tegel and Schoenefeld, which served West and East Berlin respectively during Germany’s Cold War division. It was first scheduled to open in late 2011.

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