Outdated but loved for its comfort and strange hexagonal design, Berlin’s Tegel Airport will close permanently on Sunday, after more than 60 years.
West Berlin Airport is retiring to make way for the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), which finally opened last week after years of embarrassing delays.
Here are some things to know about the airport with humble beginnings, which entered the hearts of the Germans.
Tegel was built in just 90 days in 1948 during the Berliner Luftbrücke (Berlin Air Bridge), a huge supply operation under the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.
About 19,000 citizens worked non-stop with allies to ensure its rapid completion.
Given that Berlin’s main Tempelhof airport was not large enough to accommodate certain aircraft, the Tegel was built with a 2,428-meter runway – the longest in Europe at the time.
The first plane to land there on November 5 had eight tons of cheese in its hold.
The famous hexagonal concrete terminal was built in the 1960’s, and Tegel became West Berlin’s main airport in 1975.
Outdated, but convenient
Designed to handle 2.5 million passengers a year, but lately receiving more than 20 million, Tegel had become overcrowded and unsurpassed – notorious especially for its terrible toilets.
But Tegel was a dream for travelers with little free time due to its super convenient design, the distances between the main terminal and the aircraft taking very little time.
Famous passengers passing through the airport included US President John F. Kennedy, who arrived in Tegel to give his iconic “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin.
The last flight
The last plane to take off from Tegel will be an Air France flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle on Sunday at 15:00.
Air France also operated the first commercial flight to land at Tegel in Paris via Frankfurt in the early 1960s.
Until German reunification in 1990, only British, French and American airlines were allowed to operate scheduled flights to West Berlin.
Residents are saddened by the closure
Berlin Mayor Michael Müller summed up the feelings of many residents when he described the closure as “heartbreaking” for the city.
The area around Tegel, just a 30-minute drive from the city centre, will be transformed into a residential area with shops, schools, nurseries and housing for more than 10,000 people.
There are also plans for an office complex, with terminal buildings to be part of Beuth University of Applied Sciences.