At noon to Southampton in southern England, but in the early afternoon back from the Turkish city of Antalya, a little later off to Kittilä in Finland, to check out arriving by 4:00 p.m. at the latest, then from Poznan. Impossible to create for one person? Well, almost everything is currently possible at BER, and Berlin’s new capital city airport will only open in three months.
Birgit Meiser from Berlin-Karlshorst, a middle-aged woman, sits in the waiting area of the departure zone and enjoys the view of the striking BER Tower and the wide airfield through the huge glass front. She looks relaxed, even though it is stressful to wear a mask all the time. However, a strict “Corona Codex” including a mask requirement applies throughout the terminal building. Of course, she knows that none of the planes parked outside, which have been waiting for better times there for weeks, will take off.
Equipped with a green warning vest, two false identities, a carrying bag with the BER logo and a catering package, Ms. Meiser, along with around 400 other extras, voluntarily takes part in the commissioning program that has been running at BER since April. “I just wanted to try it out,” she says. “I’ve been to the airport construction site as a visitor, I’ve already stood on the terrace and wanted to see how it is in here.” It was nice, so “quite okay”, also because there was a lot more space than in the old Berlin airports.
Try it out if it really works
The testers are around 500 airport employees who are supposed to get to know their future work environment here. Of particular interest, however, are the extras, people from outside who have applied to participate. With an unobstructed view, they should try out whether all processes really work as the planners thought.
Paul Hoppe, coordinator of the Orat program at BER, and his employees are now 25 out of a total of 47 trial runs that have to be completed from the end of April to mid-October. Now the seventh runs with extras. “As part of the trial operation, we want to try to simulate the later flight operations at BER as realistically as possible,” he says. It is about the best possible preparation of the users working here – Flughafengesellschaft Berlin-Brandenburg (FBB), ground handling services, handlers, airlines, authorities and service providers – as well as identifying weaknesses at an early stage »In the current phase we will mainly play through standard processes with the extras« , says Hoppe.
Next call: Southampton
In essence, it works, because together with Birgit Meiser, a number of “passengers” are waiting for their call for boarding for Southampton. This is the script that FBB employees issued to every participant in this group the morning after registering in the main terminal. Behind them there is already a briefing, the equipment with the most varied pieces of luggage, check-in in the counter hall, baggage handling, boarding card control and the very realistic security check by real federal police officers.
Some of the “travelers” had to perform additional special tasks to try out unusual scenarios. Handouts tell them what would cause normal nightmares for any normal traveler: Visa expired when leaving, missing visa upon entry, ticket lost, pet with you. FBB spokesman Daniel Tolksdorf explains that anyone who gets a seemingly easier lot also causes deliberate unrest. “It was just written on a piece of paper: They were upgraded.” There are also a few artificial obstacles, such as shorter check-in times, in which one or the other tester sometimes misses his “departure”.
Birgit Meiser, who was traveling to Southampton as “Reiner Apolzan”, had noticed an expired visa and had to have her passport checked and a face scanner. “It was like the US,” she says.
Was it the best choice to choose the port of Southampton from BER as the first travel destination, in which the “Titanic” set out in 1912 to set sail? The Orat team was more pragmatic when it came to creating its daily “flight plan”. This time, dream destinations such as Grenoble, Düsseldorf, Friedrichshafen, Poznan, Cologne, Dubrovnik and Antalya will also be simulated. Each tester has to go through the complete departure-arrival procedure twice during the four and a half hours that are actually available. Everything on the ground, even the boarding / reboaring was done in air-conditioned coaches.
Angela Misch from Strausberg and her daughter are sitting in the lobby. Both are waiting for the check-in, they will initially fly as “Saida Strele” and “Ravzza Roßbach” to Hilversum in the Netherlands. Both have already experienced BER as a construction site, the mother on a bus tour as part of the ILA aviation trade fair, the daughter as an extras, in 2012 before the opening that failed at the time. “It turned out quite well, but nothing has really changed, at least in the large hall,” she says. Dirk Grabowski from Moabit shares the destination of the two. He has a wheelchair employee help him from the Mobility Service. »My script says ‘Kadja Matz’ and ‘PRM’ – people with reduced mobility. That’s me, «he says, leaning on his walking stick. “I wanted to see how it works here once you’ve booked a flight.” It seems to fit.
Mobility team with sign language interpreter
The people at the “Mobility Counter” in their signal yellow vests have good things to do, because quite a few people with visual impairments or wheelchair users come to them. “We also have sign language interpreters on the team,” explains station manager Robert Wyzilo. The 31-year-old has been working at the old Schönefeld Airport for ten years. At BER he will share the counter management with a colleague who comes from Airport Tegel.
There are traffic jams in the check-in area and before the security check. Here you have to get a better grip on “snake management”, says airport manager Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, who stops by. His head of operations, Patrick Muller, also recognized the weak point. “At the security check, you could see that it can get very tight when there are 50 or 60 people,” he says. There are also problems with the two excess baggage counters. The announcements are often too quiet.
Whoever comes to the marketplace after the controls is usually irritated. According to Terminal Manager Katy Krüger, this is not just because the building is still under construction and none of the 120 shops or snack bars has opened. »This also shows that the signage of extras is interpreted differently than we had planned. We have to make improvements there, «she says.
Birgit Meiser, who was most recently in Sainnan Plate in Poznan and is now returning from Antalya, is very satisfied. “But I think I should check in from home in the future. It takes a long time to clear, and it’s a long way. «