The airport they couldn't shut down: Berlin Tegel

Story highlights

  • Berlin's Cold War-era Tegel Airport handles more than three times the passengers it was designed for
  • Airport granted a stay of execution due to delays to Berlin's new Brandenburg Airport
  • Airport officials no longer willing to put a completion date on new airport to avoid further embarrassment

(CNN)It's Friday afternoon and Berlin Tegel Airport is overwhelmed.

Several flights are delayed and passengers crowd the terminal, scowling at the departure screens and tapping away at their smartphones in frustration.
    It's not a typical scene at Tegel but hardly a surprising one.
    The airport was built 40 years ago to handle just 6 million passengers a year in a city that was then an island surrounded by the former East Germany.
    Berlin has since changed almost beyond recognition, becoming one of Europe's major capitals and a popular travel destination.
    Tegel now handles 20 million passengers annually and should've closed down long ago, but an embarrassing series of setbacks and delays to the city's state of the art new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), have earned it a stay of execution.
    The new airport was originally due to open in 2012, but there's currently no scheduled launch date.
    Surprisingly, rather than becoming increasingly frustrated with using Tegel's creaking facilities, many locals are glad it's still operating.
    "Tegel has grown in Berliner's hearts," says Lars Wagner, a spokesman for the Berlin Airport Authority, the body that will eventually have to sign Tegel's death warrant.
    "As so often in life, people find it hard to part with what they're used to."
    Proximity to the action
    Suzanne Stoffe, flying to Frankfurt after a conference in the German capital, is among those who have developed a deep affection for the airport.
    "I hope Berlin Tegel stays for a long time," she says. "It's just so easy to reach and to go back and forth."
    Stoffe's colleague, Torsten Warg, agrees.
    "I always find the check-in very quick, it's super," he says. "The new airport will never be ready anyway, so there's isn't really a question of flying from somewhere else in the near future."
    Just a 20-minute taxi ride from the city center, many travelers love Tegel's proximity to the action.
    "It's super convenient," says Winnie Heun, a Berlin-based cinematographer and Tegel fan flying to Kiev to film a commercial.