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My first encounter with BER, Berlin's new airport

I got my first look at BER about a week ago. I arrived on Friday and departed on Tuesday. The airport looks great and is named after former Berlin mayor Willy Brandt who, by the way, had no objection to the "ein" in "Ich bin ein Berliner" when JFK ran his speech by him before it was delivered at Rathaus Schöneberg in 1963 (but I digress).


I arrived from Frankfurt on a Lufthansa flight. The jet bridge was surprisingly steep. I wondered how well people with mobility issues could negotiate it. Since I arrived from Frankfurt, I did not experience immigration at BER. I wandered around the airport a little before heading into the city. There is an enormous mall-like area between the A gates and B gates in Terminal 1. The WCs in the B gate area were overflowing with people when I arrived, so I had to seek a WC in the A gate area. After that, I followed the signage to baggage claim.

Finding the S

There is an S line that goes to the airport (along with some regional trains), but the signage to get to the trains (especially the S) isn't very good. It took effort to find the S track, and it was found only after following the train signs out of the building, seeing entrances that went down to the regional train tracks (but not the S), staring intently at a "Your are here" type sign for a couple of minutes, and then hoping for success as I re-entered the building. There success was found. To avoid wasting time like me, follow the train signs, but make a left turn immediately before exiting the building (at the end of a divider/wall) and then go back in the direction you came from to get to the S.

Interestingly, there was a wide flight of steps that went down to the S station and only a single narrow escalator coming up. I watched several people struggle down the steps with large pieces of luggage. The ride to my stop -- the Zoo station in Charlottenburg (former West Berlin) -- took about an hour. I purchased my ticket on the BVG app (app for Berlin's transportation company). You cannot create an account on the BVG with a US address, so I use my B&B address. I find the BVG app pretty useful for buying tickets.


I returned to the airport for a 6:45 am flight on Tuesday morning amid stories of needing to arrive 4 hours before departure time. I arranged for a 4:30 pick up at my B&B; a car ride is less than 30 minutes instead of > 1 hour on the S. I was out front at 4:20 am, as was my driver. I was at the airport by 4:50 and was at the gate munching on a sandwich prepared by my kind B&B owner at 5:20 am. The airport was surprisingly busy at 4:50 am. I've found even most major airports to be pretty sleepy at that hour, but not BER. The ticket counters are laid out a lot like those at Frankfurt. The queue for the Lufthansa counter assigned to my flight was crazy; I was certainly glad to have no bag to check and to have a boarding pass on my phone. There was a decent (but not unmanageable) queue at security.

Passports, COVID, etc

Of note, I never showed a passport or other ID anywhere in the airport to get on my flight. I scanned my boarding pass to enter security and scanned it again to get on the plane. That was it. Also of note, my ticket only went to Frankfurt, so no passing through immigration. Also, nothing was required with regard to showing immunization or a negative COVID-19 test for flying from Berlin to Frankfurt.

Posted by
5251 posts

Thanks for sharing this, Dave. I came into BER about ten days before you and out the day after your arrival. I agree about the poor signage for the S-Bahn, it was hard to find and hard to figure out (for this novice) once there. But there are large elevators between the departure, arrival, and train levels, you enter on one side and exit on the other so no turnaround in the elevator. I had checked a bag but didn't have to wait very long for it.

My departure was about an hour later in the morning than yours, so I presume more crowded, but it seemed orderly enough. Lufthansa did check my passport and Covid test result (which I had on paper being technologically primitive), I don't recall if they asked for the CDC card, probably not. But I was checking a bag and didn't have a printed boarding pass (technologically primitive). I had spent the preceding night at the Steigenberger Hotel right at the airport, a two-minute walk from the terminal, which I recommend. Booking several months ahead got me a good price there, but the restaurant was expensive.

BER seemed like a much easier airport to use than FRA, not surprisingly since it's so big and new. The direct rail connection to the city was very convenient (about 45 minutes to Hackescher Markt where I stayed). The welcome news at FRA was no second security check before the gate for my US-bound flight. The last time I went through there I got groped pretty thoroughly, years ago.

Posted by
3021 posts


It sounds like you found a much more efficient way to the trains at BER than I did.

I had separate tickets on different carriers for BER to FRA and for FRA back to the US. Lufthansa and Delta use different terminals at FRA, so I had to use the train to go between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2... and go through security to re-enter the sterile side of the airport. I kind of felt like the FRA security guy should have proposed after a particularly thorough pat down.

Posted by
7588 posts

Hmmmm, if both of you (experienced travelers to Germany) found it difficult to find the S-Bahn, that is not a good sign (sorry) for the rest of us ! Thanks for the info.

Posted by
12880 posts

Thanks for the useful information on BER. I'm glad it is now operational after all these years.

Although I won't be using BER on the trip next summer, I will still check out BER during my stay in Berlin and the public transport connections, ie, the S-Bahn and any other public possibilities.

Posted by
16742 posts

Note that RB and RE trains might get you to where you want to go faster as they make fewer stops.
Example, going to Zoo Bahnhof, there is only 1 direct S-Bahn every hour at 9 past the hour and it takes 57 minutes. It goes from Track 5. There are 2 direct regional trains every hour, the RE 7 at 41 past the hour taking 39 minutes, and the RB 14 at 59 past the hour taking 42 minutes. Both of these go from Track 3.

There is also a connection at 15 past the hour using the FEX (I guess that is the Flughafen Express) with a change to the S-Bahn at Ostkreuz taking 45 minutes. That one goes from Track 1. Note that this is an up and own connection with platforms on 2 levels.