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‘Ready, set, test!’: Berlin’s long-delayed airport undergoes dress rehearsal for October opening | DW

Several hundred volunteers have put Berlin’s new airport to the test, launching a series of trial runs ahead of its planned opening in October. The thorough scrutiny of operations came — you guessed it — after a delay.

Never mind, it’s just another delay in the 9-year-old saga of the German capital’s new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), which has long been a national punchline for planning errors and technical problems. This time though, the delay was only for six weeks rather than nine years.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the dress rehearsal of operations, scheduled for June, had to be postponed until July 28, and contrary to original plans only about 400 volunteers participated, instead of 20,000 envisioned earlier this year.

“Safety and health take the highest priority,” the CEO of Berlin airport operator FBB, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, said, noting that the decision had been taken in light of social-distancing rules in place to curb coronavirus infections.

But Daldrup insisted that the revised trial plan still provided plenty of time for the airport to be ready before its planned opening on October 31.

Pandemic rules have limited the number of participants in the BER trial run, but social distancing wasn’t easy to maintain

‘Ready, set, test!’

The official slogan for the trial runs is “Ready, set, test!”, according to the FBB operator’s website advertising for the tests, and anyone “who loves airports or is just curious” can apply to take part as long as they are over the age of 18. Until the official opening in October, a total of 28 test runs are slated.

On Tuesday, the testing routine for the volunteers started at 9:30 a.m. with individual registration and distribution of face masks to protect them from infections during the day-long exercise. They were also given some food and a personal briefing assigning each of them to their specific tasks.

After they’d received suitcases, the hot testing phase began two hours later with the volunteers slipping into the roles of normal passengers, who were supposed to check in, undergo security checks or line up for boarding.

What was missing though, were real planes on the tarmac that could fly them to destinations like Lake Constance or Mallorca, which were being flashed on the huge flight schedule screens. Instead, there were buses waiting for the “fake passengers,” taking them on a short tour of BER’s sprawling 1,470-hectare (3,632-acre) site.

The trial run ended at around 4 p.m. when the volunteers were asked to fill in feedback questionnaires on how they’d found their way around or if they’d discovered potential areas for improvement.

The airport is U-shaped and the main terminal sits between the two runways making it a so-called ‘midfield airport’

‘Long-distance’ airport

The new airport’s main check-in area is located on Level 1 of the six-floor terminal building and houses 118 counters in eight clusters. Volunteer Bernadette Handschug found the distances to walk between the gates “really incredible.”

“All they have is a kind of ‘fun’ moving walkway that takes you no further than 50 meters, which is complete…

Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com)

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