Airport art

Not a joke: Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport (BER) ready to open.

After 9 years of delays and false starts, Germany’s third-largest airport, Berlin Brandenburg “Willy Brandt” Airport (BER) is scheduled to open on October 31, 2020.

We won’t be able to be there for the opening, but we’re looking forward to a visit once this COVID-19 business is resolved.

In the meantime, here’s a recap of our 2014 visit to the airport site, when we joined a bus tour of the unopened airport.

Our report first appeared on USA TODAY.

Berlin  Brandenburg Airport is late for an important date

The highlight of my late June visit to the unopened and much-delayed Berlin Brandenburg  Willy Brandt Airport was racing down a runway as a passenger in a tour bus going more than 60 miles per hour.

It was also one of the saddest parts of the tour.

That’s because due to technical glitches, cost overruns, corruption and project mismanagement, tour buses – not airplanes – are likely the only vehicles that will be barreling down the BER runways for quite some time.

Under construction since 2006, Berlin’s much-needed new airport was designed to serve 27 million passengers, with an initial opening target date of November 2011.

That date was pushed back to June 3, 2012, and, despite trial runs during which the airport authority did tests of the baggage carousels, check-in desks, and security checkpoints, and simulated what it termed “all imaginable scenarios,” a problem with the airport’s fire safety and suppression system was discovered.

With just four weeks’ notice, opening day was called off.

Since then multiple target dates for a new opening day – six or seven, it’s hard to keep count – have come and gone. Now all the company managing the project will say is that “an opening date is expected to be announced at the end of the year.”

2016 has been bandied about as the next possible opening date, but additional problems and embarrassing operational revelations keep cropping up.  

In May, there was an announcement of a suspected corruption case involving bribes for the awarding of contracts. In early June, there was out-of court settlement between the airport management company and airberlin, the major tenant at Berlin’s outdated Tegel Airport, over claims the airline felt it was due because of delays in the switchover.

And at the end of June, it was revealed that the engineer responsible for designing the new airport’s fire safety system was in fact just a draftsman, not a real engineer, and had been fired.

Besides showing off any progress, one reason the airport authority offers BER tours “is because it’s important that people don’t only read about the airport in the newspaper and see the reports on TV,” said an airport spokesman.

Tour buses stop first at a 105-foot-tall observation tower offering a bird’s eye view of the unopened airport terminal, the unused runways, empty parking lots, and assorted other facilities-in-waiting.

At the bottom of the tower is an airport information center, with a scale model of the airport and a glass cabinet of souvenirs emblazoned with the BER logo.

The staff on duty the day I visited said they don’t sell many of these souvenirs to tourists. And they seemed amused when I asked about purchasing some BER t-shirts, baseball caps, tote bags, inflatable plastic beach balls, and small, plastic lunch boxes.  

Our tour bus then drove slowly past the very quiet office, cargo, and airport security facilities and by the railway station, where empty trains run each day to make sure systems remain working.

Photo ops of the front of the main terminal building were only offered from inside the bus, but the terminal’s glass façade offered a glimpse of “The Magic Carpet,” by Pae White. The large, red, work of art, one of several pieces specially-commissioned for the airport, hovers over the check-in lobby.

Out back, the bus pulled up at BER’s one A380-compatible gate, which has a jet bridge draped with Olaf Nicolai’s “Gadget,” a piece of art that looks like a string of giant pop beads and is designed to change colors to match those of the livery of the airplane at the gate.

Tour-goers were allowed off the bus here and invited up a set of not-quite-finished stairs for a look at a gate area where seats were installed, but still wrapped in plastic, and ceiling panels gaped open.

“It’s not unusual for big projects like this to be over budget,” said Johann Bammann, a retired architect whose tour ticket was a gift from a friend. But delays are dragging on too long, he said, “it’s time for the city to have a new front door.”

After a stop near the control tower, the bus made that dash down the runway, stopping to let passengers out to run around and pose for photos.

“It’s just unbelievable. I can’t understand why it’s taking such a long time to open this airport,” said Barbel Liedtke, a former Berlin-based Pan Am Airlines employee taking the tour with a friend. “But I’m sure there are a lot of people to blame.”

‘5 Things We Love About…” an airport near you

Fall travel doesn’t look like it is going to involve much flying. And we suspect that concerns about COVID-19 will mean that most winter adventures will have to be put on hold as well.

But that’s not stopping us from celebrating cool features and amenities at airports in our ongoing “5 Things We Love About…” series.

So far, we’ve profiled more than 30 airports. And we’re reminded of how proud each of these airports is to be serving and representing their cities.

While we work on putting together more airport profiles, take a moment to visit some that have been featured so far.

And please let us know if there’s an airport you’d like to see featured.

Albany International Airport (ALB)

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Boise Airport (BOI)

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Evansville Regional Airport (EVV)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)

Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Long Beach Airport (LGB)

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Ontario International Airport (ONT)

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Portland International Airport (PDX)]

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT)

Free recipes, a flower class & audio-visual art from DEN, DAL and SAN Airports

We may not be flying much, or at all, right now but airports are still doing their thing with music, art, and tasty food and drink.

We appreciate that. And we’re paying attention.

Denver International Airport (DEN) has launched the Taste of DEN series offering recipes from the chefs at popular restaurants at the airport.

In the first episode, Tom’s Urban Kitchen & Brewery Chef Robert Garton cookes up a Prime Rib Dip Sandwich. A video from DEN’s Root Down Kitchen is promised next.

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Hortencia and Rachel from the art and programming team at Dallas Love Field (DAL) Airport were kind enough to put together a video showing us how to make traditional paper flowers.

And the San Diego International Airport (SAN) Arts Program has a new artist in residence for Fall 2020.

Throughout her Performing Arts Residency at SAN Margaret Noble is offering a series of downloadable audio-visual works as part of her [Sky][Muse] collection.

The first set is called ‘Compass’ and includes two ‘experiences:’

One has interactive visual music; the other a ‘silent graphical score.’

Swanky new digs for SLC Int’l Airport. Fresh art at SAN Airport. Plus an invite.

Fresh art at San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport (SAN) has a new and very big work of art to share with the public.

Part of the airport art program’s mural series, Plein Air Port is by local artist Aaron Glasso. The 144-foot-long piece combines images of the San Diego landscape and the airport’s architecture with abstract imagery.

Look for this hard-to-miss work along SAN’s interior roadway through 2021 on Admiral Boland Way, which runs between the terminal and the rental car center.

New terminal opens at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) officially opened it new central terminal building to travelers on September 15, 2020.

The opening marks the completion of the first phase of the 7-year, $4.1 billion project and includes the 900,000-sq.-ft. central terminal building and two linear concourses with 45 gates.

A time capsule was part of the opening day events. Items placed in the time capsule include a 1996 Airport Master Plan, a wooden bear carving, eagle feathers and sweet grass. Also in the time capsule: a hard drive with construction drawings and a letter to future airport employees written by current airport employees.

The second phase of the SLC new terminal project is scheduled to be completed in 2024. This phases will include a south concourse with 22 additional gates, allowing the airport to accommodate 34 million passengers a year.

StuckatTheAirport.com is planning an in-person visit to the new SLC terminal as soon as we feel safe to fly. But in the meantime, here are some snaps and a video shared by the airport and HOK, the architectural firm for the facility.

“The Canyon” by Gordon Heuther

The interior atrium is the length of a football field and features a 362-foot-long sculpture titled “The Canyon” by Gordon Huether. The work is designed to evoke Utah’s red rock canyons, alpine peaks, and moving water.

Sign up for the Travel 2021 Summit

Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

No one knows for sure, but an interesting group of travel experts is going to talk about it on October 7-8 during the online Travel 2021 Summit.

I am on the agenda talking about what airlines and airports are doing to make travelers feel safe now and what air travel may be like in the future.

Want to attend? Here is a link to the Travel 2021 Summit where you can get a discount on tickets. Early bird pricing ends September 17. Use code SEPT50 for $50 off the registration fee.

IAH: 5 Thing We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About...” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world lands at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

The airport is located about 23 miles north of downtown Houston and is served by more than two dozen airlines offering flights to about 185 non-destinations.

Keep in mind that some of the amenities we list may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss one of the things you love about George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), be sure to leave a note in the comments section below.

5 Things We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

1. The art at IAH Airport

The Houston Airport System owns one of the largest collections of public art in Texas and a good amount of that art is on display at IAH Airport.

Travel Light – by The Art Guys
Moonwalking Cow – Silvestri

2. Live music at IAH Airport

The Harmony in the Air performing arts program at IAH presents live concerts in Terminal A, Northside Atrium, and in Terminal D, near gate D8.

Concerts are scheduled Monday through Friday and include classical, jazz, pop, and International music. See the IAH website for schedule and concert times.

3. The IAH Yoga studio

IAH has a yoga studio for passengers in Terminal A, near Gate A3.

4. Shopping at IAH

We’ve picked up some great souvenirs in the shops at IAH

5. The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH

All five terminals at IAH are connected by an above-ground automated people-mover (the Skyway) and the underground Subway, which dates to 1981 and runs on a circuit that makes a curving and somewhat amusing round-trip every 18 minutes.

As of September 2020, the subway was undergoing some major repairs, so the video below may be the closest you’ll get to this unusual ride for a while.

The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH has a great backstory.

In the late-1970s a Disney executive who traveled through IAH on a regular basis became irritated with the unreliable tram system then operating between terminals. Not long after, a Disney-made people mover opened at IAH.

That’s why Mickey Mouse was on hand for the subway’s opening day.

Did we miss one your favorite features or amenities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)? Be sure to leave a note in the comment section below.

Looking ahead: Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

No one knows for sure, but an interesting group of travel experts is going to talk about it on October 7-8 during the online Travel 2021 Summit.

I am on the agenda talking about what airlines and airports are doing to make travelers feel safe now and what air travel may be like in the future.

Want to attend? Here is a link to the Travel 2021 Summit where you can get a discount on tickets.

Early bird pricing ends September 17. 

Use code SEPT50 for $50 off the registration fee.