Five things we know about Berlin’s airport after a week without water

It was supposed to be an airport filled with people who went to see the world and then returned safely.

They came to catch their flights, head home or see friends. There was even a lake at the exit of Berlin’s Tegel airport.

With that in mind, “Merkel’s airport” was billed as one of the most successful airports worldwide. But last week, at least 500 passengers had their flights diverted when the airport was shut down and the water supply was cut off. For more than a day, hundreds of travelers had no water or any idea when they would get to a new terminal.

So here are five things we know about the airport’s new May 17 reopening:

1. This doesn’t look like a newly cleaned and repaired airport: Just across the street from a freshly painted, air-conditioned airline desk, travelers must pass through a flooded wall to get into one of the terminals.

Inside the terminal, more flooded wall tiles have emerged, and a wall outside the terminal can be seen molding up. Covered slats around a sink are cracked, and the ceilings appear to be dark green. Despite more than a week of preparations, the building was not ready.

2. Stampedes of people could once again ensue: Authorities said they would give to emergency staff the new check-in areas, which have been in disarray for a week.

3. It won’t be an empty bow-wow: Some remaining airlines have been busing passengers to another airport, Tegel International, which is much closer to the city. But a Federal Transport Office official said Tegel was only supposed to be the temporary airport, not Berlin’s permanent home.

4. Check-in will still be a mess: The new check-in and departure areas will likely be cordoned off. Passengers won’t be allowed to check their bags in the lost luggage bins in the public areas. Each person will need their own, typically larger, suitcase. Passengers will be sent to two underground parking lots instead of one. They’ll use an escalator instead of a ticketed elevator to get from one level to another. Many air travelers, fearful of giving anything else more attention, have avoided the airport all together.

5. It’s unclear if and when the terminal will re-open: And there’s no guarantee it’ll ever be open again. The chairman of the Federal Aviation Office, Andreas Herkel, said it’s too early to say if it’s ready to reopen as a full terminal.

Company officials said they need to first clear out the water, which may not be feasible at full capacity for days or weeks. But Herkel said the backup water supply was not contaminated. If it were, all the air conditioning systems would shut down.

It took around 1,000 water trucks to bring a temporary supply of water to the airport.

Germany’s airport reopening is stunningly German.

In other airports in Europe, typically oversupplied with passengers, operational troubles have had mostly dire consequences.

In Belgium, overcapacity and short staffing has left airports blocked for hours after a fire destroyed the building in the terminal connecting four terminals. And in Athens, a decade-long strike by airport workers held one airport hostage to one day of operations, leading to hours of traffic delays and another day of ground services being withdrawn.

In Turkey, strikes by mineworkers almost ground Istanbul airport to a halt. And while many flights are now back online at Germany’s second-largest airport in Munich, there’s still trouble there too. To keep up with demand after a series of strikes, delays in airport hiring and other measures have clogged the system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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