Berlin Airports Brace for Fans Flocking to Champions League GameRichard Weiss
Berlin’s airports are bracing for an influx of about 25,000 soccer fans for Saturday’s UEFA Champions League soccer final between Barcelona and Juventus, putting extra strain on a city plagued by the lack of a world-class airfield.
Schoenefeld, the old east German airfield that’s used mainly by low-cost airliners, will see an extra 370 commercial flights between Thursday and Sunday, increasing traffic by more than 50 percent. Warren Buffett’s NetJets Inc. will ferry affluent soccer enthusiasts on more than 40 flights to and from Berlin for the game, 10 times the usual number, while Air Berlin Plc is putting on an additional 18 flights.
Temporary check-ins and security areas will be set up by Schoenefeld to handle the extra passengers and satisfy UEFA demands to separate opposing fans, said Lars Wagner a spokesman for the Berlin’s airports operator. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Juventus’s Andrea Pirlo and their teams will have the luxury of landing with special flights at the Tegel airfield that’s closer to Berlin’s Olympic stadium.
Tegel is Berlin’s main airport and has little room for more commercial landings. It handled in excess of 20 million passengers last year, more than seven times the flow for which it was originally designed. The city lacks airport capacity as the Willy Brandt hub, which will eventually subsume Schoenefeld, is years behind plan because of construction and design faults, sitting on the outskirts of the city and awaiting its opening sometime after 2016.
Airport operator Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH will employ an additional 100 people over the weekend, and residents will face noise through the night as about 80 flights received special permission to leave after the game on Saturday during what is usually a curfew for takeoffs.
Vueling, the Barcelona-based budget arm of British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, and Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, are also running extra services. EasyJet Plc will add capacity by switching from narrow-body Airbus A319s to A320s, which have 24 more seats.
The game ranks among the top five annual events drawing extra demand, after the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Art Basel exhibition, and Munich’s Oktoberfest, according to NetJets.
UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, sold tickets from 70 euros ($79) to 390 euros apiece for the match at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which has a capacity of 70,500.