Berliners give a last salute to their beloved airport

The famous Tegel Airport (TXL) closed its doors on Sunday the 8th of October with the last direct flight to Paris. Abderrahmen Ben Chouchane talked to locals about what the airport meant to them.

Overview of the hexagon shaped Airport Tegel.Photo by mariohagen from Pixabay.

The last take-off of Air France flight AF 1235 left Berlin on Sunday the 8th of October  and thousands of residents gathered to admire it, including Berlin governing mayor Michael Muller.

“I’ll say it quite clearly, it’s a day when the hearts of many people are bleeding,” Michael Muller told news agency DPA. “For us Berliners, Tegel was the gateway to the world during the long Cold War decades when West Berlin was a democratic exclave inside the communist German Democratic Republic, surrounded by the Berlin Wall.”

With the closure of Tempelhof Airport in 2008 and now that of Tegel, a dark period in German history also ends. For many Berliners, the closure of the airport provoked distress, anger and some joy and a well-deserved peace.

Ricarda grew up and lives in Berlin and associates Tegel airport with many memories of her youth. “I grew up in West-Berlin and Tegel was the only airport a lot of celebrities would arrive at,” she said. “It’s very accessible too, so whenever we had big events in West-Berlin, we knew we would come across one or two stars.”

The closure took place a week after the opening of the extended terminals 1-2 of the infamous Schönefeld airport (BER) in Brandenburg located in the south-east of the German capital.

Stephan Ude, a 58-year-old German resident in Brandenburg, said: “Tegel Airport is only 20 minutes away by car from my home and when landing sometimes I see the region where I’m living so it really feels like coming home – but now we have to travel through the whole city of Berlin for more than one hour.”

The capacity of the airport was designed to have around 2 million passengers per year and recently, prior to the pandemic, numbers surpassed the 2 million, giving Tegel a reputation of delays and lost luggage.

“The last few years when more and more people started flying from Tegel it was over capacity,” said Stephan. “But it was like the chaos of Berlin; a lovely chaos.”

According to a referendum held in Berlin in 2012, most voted for Tegel to stay open but due to plans from the governor to open an extension in BER they decided to close TXL.

“The decision has been taken by people who have  never even lived in Berlin long enough to understand the piece of history this airport means for Berlin,” Ricarda said. “Berlin is big enough to have two airports – Tegel in the North-West and Schönefeld (BER) at the South-East.

“So here we are in the Capital of Germany without our own airport anymore. I am also upset about politicians completely ignoring what the people want.”

The airport was only 10km away from the city centre, so for many it was a fast way to catch a flight – but for others the loud noises and the excessive pollution were extremely tiresome.

Albert, a 26-year-old art student and climate change activist said: “Residents around Tegel can finally take a deep breath as aircraft pollution and noise pollution are finally over. 

Flying is extremely damaging to the climate and I do not recommend it as a lot of greener options are available. In summertime late arrivals keep me awake all night and sometimes if I am hanging out at the park with my friends it is really hard to hear each other from the noise.”

Albert and Ricarda declined to give their surnames for this article.

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