This morning at 10:21 (local time), United Airlines flight 963 took off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) and headed to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). The flight is monumental as it is the first-ever to the United States from Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
History in the making
As this article is being written, UA963 is entering Canadian airspace. UA963 was scheduled to take off from BER at 09:50 (local time) but was delayed by 31 minutes to 10:21. Although the flight took off late, it is due to arrive in EWR 27 minutes ahead of schedule.
Since BER opened for operations on October 31, 2020, no flights have been operated to the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time an airline operated a flight from Berlin to the United States was on March 20, 2020. Until the pandemic, United operated its Berlin flights to Tegel Airport. Tegel Airport was closed on November 8, 2020, and is now being used to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country due to the crisis with Russia.
The EWR – BER and BER – EWR routes will be serviced by United’s Boeing 767-400ER. Photo: Anikka Bauer | Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH
Daily flights from May 5
United will serve the BER – EWR route with its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, which have a capacity of 240 passengers in a three-class configuration. Initially, the route will see six weekly flights. However, beginning on May 5, United will service the Berlin route daily.
United Airlines has established itself as the most significant US player in the German aviation market, operating nonstop flights to Germany for over 30 years. During the summer, United is planning 119 weekly flights from Germany to the US and another 42 flights to Switzerland. United will operate more flights than before the pandemic between the two countries.
Hope for the future
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey, Aletta von Massenbach, CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, and Thorsten Lettnin, Director Sales Continental Europe, India & West Africa at United Airlines, were present at the airport for this monumental occasion. Mr Lettnin stated,
“We are very pleased that we are finally serving this important route again and that there are once again non-stop flights between the German capital region and the largest metropolis in the USA. After their arrival in New York/Newark, our passengers can also easily transfer to other United Airlines flights and travel to around 50 other destinations within the USA, for example to Florida, California, Hawaii or the Great Lakes.”
Airline, airport, and city executives welcomed the very first flight from the US to the new BER airport. Photo: Anikka Bauer | Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH
Aletta von Massenbach, CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, added,
“The long-distance connection to New York/Newark is an important milestone for the BER location. The non-stop connection to the east coast of the USA makes a significant contribution to promoting cultural exchange and tourism between the capital region and the USA. In addition, the strong economic relationships between the two regions are strengthened and are thus a clear signal for the attractiveness of the BER location.”
Berlin’s Mayor, Franziska Giffey, also made a few remarks,
“Berlin and the people of Berlin welcome the new direct flight connection to New York. After two years of the corona pandemic, this step also stands for the return to normality and for German-American friendship. Both cities are attractive metropolises that thrive on mutual exchange and are now finally directly connected again. Economic relations will certainly benefit from this as well, for example the establishment of the US company Tesla in our region. I hope United has also opened the door for other airlines to connect BER directly to destinations around the world, making our capital city airport even more attractive and competitive.”
UA962 was welcomed with a traditional water cannon salute at BER airport. Photo: Ekaterina Zershchikova | Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH
The German capital’s new airport opened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The airport began operations at the end of October 2020. The construction of the airport turned into a nine-year delay due to faulty construction, design flaws, and allegations of corruption.
Most Berliners hardly thought that day would come as the new airport had been 29 years in the making, and no new airport had been opened in the city since the Cold War. Meanwhile, Berlin was never a central hub for flights to the United States because of the country’s history. When Germany was divided, Lufthansa, West Germany’s flag carrier, was not allowed to fly to Berlin. Because of this, Frankfurt became a central hub for US and intercontinental flights.
Plans were made to open the new airport in 1991. Construction began in 2006 and was due to be completed in 2011 but was delayed nine years. In total, the airport took 14 years to build. There were multiple issues regarding the terminal’s construction, including inadequate fire safety systems. These issues opened the door for many people to shut down the project. The attempts to halt the airport construction were futile, however. Lufthansa and easyJet were the first two airlines to operate flights at the new airport on October 31, 2020.
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