Berlin Brandenburg (BER) has been cleared for a major cash infusion by the European Commission (EC).
The airport, which endured eight years of construction delays, finally opened in October 2020–in the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The combination of travel restrictions and drastically reduced flights has meant that the airport has racked up considerable losses while still facing significant operational costs. This has led to a deterioration in the BER’s equity and liquidity position. The new funding will prevent the airport’s insolvency, which the EC said would have a seriously negative effect on the German capital’s connectivity.
The airport is operated by state-owned company Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg (FBB).
The German government, together with the two regions of Berlin and Brandenburg, have been given EC approval to recapitalize the airport to the tune of €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion). The new funding will be injected into FBB’s capital reserve.
FBB will use part of the aid to repay subsidized interest loans granted under a previous scheme that the EC approved in August 2020.
The recapitalization measure was approved under the EU’s state aid temporary framework.
“Airports have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions in place,” EC executive VP for competition policy Margrethe Vestager said. “With this measure, Germany will contribute to reinforcing Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg's equity position and help the company face the economic effects of the outbreak. At the same time, the public support will come with strings attached to limit undue distortions of competition.”
In an effort to preserve competition, the EC has determined that BER will not be allowed to offer any airport-charge discounts to airlines and cannot expand its capacity until the aid has been fully redeemed.