Operators at Berlin Tempelhof Airport last month rebuffed a local court recommendation that offered a postponement of closure of the downtown airport. The court on December 21 recommended keeping Tempelhof open until Oct. 31, 2008, one year later than previously planned. But the operators challenging the rejection of their licenses, as they had a right to comment, said they could not accept such a compromise. The final court decision is now delayed, without a schedule.
It is possible that the final decision will keep the airport open to certain limited operations such as business aviation, but, according to German press reports, unlikely. The city of Berlin and the federal government fear this would weaken the case for constructing the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, which is being built on the site of the existing Schoenefeld Airport.
As a result, the court’s recommendation appears to undermine previously proposed plans for turning the airport into a luxury health center.
The Central European Development (CED) company, led by Fred Langhammer, former CEO of cosmetic company Estée Lauder, and Ronald Lauder, founder Estée’s son, is still negotiating with the city of Berlin to turn Tempelhof Airport into a health center that would include a luxurious clinic and private aircraft gateway. According to the Financial Times Deutschland, a E350 million ($450 million) investment is ready to save the historic airport from complete closure.
The proposed project calls for a 360,000-sq-ft regional outpatient care facility that would have the capacity to treat 120,000 patients annually. It would neighbor an international health center, with a capacity for 5,500 self-paying patients. The airport would be an integral part of the plan, as these wealthy individuals would be able to land next to the health center in their own jets. They could then be treated in a Berlin hospital (under agreements that have yet to be made) and recover in a luxury hotel atmosphere in the refurbished terminal.
Under the Langhammer and Lauder plan, business aircraft other than those carrying clinic customers could also use the airport. The CED would not be directly the airport operator; rather, German railway operator Die Bahn would operate the airport.
Other proposals for a new use of Tempelhof are also under consideration. (See AIN, October 2006, page 6.) The future of the convenient airport–located barely 10 minutes from the heart of the German capital–is in doubt now that construction work has finally started on the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport.
Tempelhof was originally due to close in October this year, but demands to keep it open have recently gathered momentum. Berlin city authorities and the Berlin Airport Authority itself have been pushing for the closure of the airport, arguing that it is not financially viable. According to French daily Les Echos, keeping it operational would cost between $2 million and $2.6 million a year.