Berlin is gearing up for a hot vaxxed summer this year. Covid restrictions have eased and the city’s long-delayed new airport Berlin Brandenburg is finally fully operational, and that has prompted a wave of new air service even with the Ukraine war raging just several hundred miles away.
Eight airlines plan at least 10 new routes to Berlin this spring and summer that, combined with airlines restoring their pre-pandemic capacities, could see the airport handling more than 3 percent more seats in the third quarter than now-closed Berlin Tegel saw three years ago, Cirium schedules show.
“Berlin is looking toward a strong summer,” Visit Berlin CEO Burkhard Kieker said. Easter bookings are already on par with 2019, and he described summer as “very promising.”
European airlines have maintained forecasts of a hot vaxxed summer even since the February invasion of Ukraine threw another potential wrench into the pandemic recovery. Speaking at the Skift Europe Forum on March 24, Air France CEO Anne Rigail said that booking momentum for spring and summer travel continues apace after being “paralyzed for a few days” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Air France-KLM budget subsidiary Transavia France is among the carriers adding routes to Berlin this summer with plans to offer twice-weekly Nantes-Berlin flights from March 27.
EasyJet, Eurowings, Flyr, Norwegian Air, Ryanair, SunExpress, and Turkish Airlines are joining Transavia in launching new offerings to Berlin this summer. Of these, Ryanair will offer the most additional seats — 172 percent more — than it did in the third quarter of 2019, according to Cirium. Though some of the growth comes from the integration of LaudaMotion in 2020. The balance is increased frequencies, and new thrice-weekly service to Krakow from May 2.
But it’s EasyJet, which maintains one of its largest bases in Berlin, that will be the airport’s largest with nearly 23 percent of seats in the September quarter, Cirium shows. The airline will add new routes to Pisa and Rijeka, Croatia, from June 28. The additions are in response to what the airline sees as “pent-up demand for travel this summer,” a spokesperson said.
“We are currently experiencing unabated strong demand, especially for Easter and summer vacations. People just want to get away from home,” Eurowings Head of Media Relations Florian Gränzdörffer said. He called Berlin, where the Lufthansa Group budget arm maintains a base, an “absolute tourist magnet.” The war in Ukraine has not affected demand for Eurowings flights, he added.
Eurowings, Berlin’s third-largest airline, will add two routes as well to Kos, Greece, from May 7, and Stockholm Arlanda from June 3. However, the carrier’s overall seats in the German capital will be down 10 percent in the third quarter than three years earlier, according to Cirium.
The summer schedule is not everything Berlin Airport had hoped for. On March 25, United Airlines confirmed that it would not begin new service between the city and Washington Dulles in May as planned due to a “number of factors including demand, costs and resources.” Other long-haul routes flown in 2019 also remain suspended, including: Beijing, New York JFK — though Newark flights are operating — and Toronto, Cirium data show.
Overall, while the number of flights from Berlin to destinations outside Europe is up 18 percent in the September quarter compared to 2019, non-European seat capacity will be down 7 percent, according to Cirium.
United did not mention the war in Ukraine for its decision to cancel the planned Washington-Berlin route. And Kieker said that the city has not seen an uptick in overall cancellations or drop in bookings since the February invasion.
This will be the first unrestricted summer season for Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which opened nine years late in October 2020. The facility replaced Tegel Airport that, while an icon of Cold War Berlin, was poorly designed for contemporary traveler numbers and security protocols.
In response to the return of flyers, Brandenburg opened its mothballed Terminal 2 on March 24 for the exclusive use of Ryanair. The facility includes additional check-in, baggage claim, and security capacity, and is connected airside to the existing gate areas.
Updated with comments from Visit Berlin CEO Burkhard Kieker, and statement from United on cancellation of planned Washington-Berlin flights.