The historic airlift, initiated by the Western Allies to supply the people of Soviet-surrounded West Berlin with supplies and vital goods, happened more than 70 years ago.
Today, a second airlift was launched in Berlin. This is not about freight transports, but about flying stranded tourists back home whose return flights have been cancelled by local
governments due to the corona crisis.
It happened in June 1948, when the Soviet Union sealed off the western part of Berlin from the American, British and French zones, later to become the Federal Republic. The Russians did not
permit any vehicles or trains coming from outside their occupied German territory to enter the city. The supply of more than 2 million people with food and other essential goods was at stake.
5,000 tons each day
In this precarious situation, the Americans and the British decided to take an unusual measure: they started an airlift dubbed Luftbruecke (Luft = air / Bruecke = bridge), operating hundreds of
DC3 freighters from Frankfurt, Hamburg and Hanover to West Berlin to provide the city with basic supplies, lasting almost a year. By this means, 5,000 tons of aid supplies landed every single
day, seven days a week, at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. To relieve small Tempelhof and create more operational space, Tegel Airport (TXL) was built in just a few months. An incredible
achievement considering the drama that has been going on these past years with the projected new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport – BER.
Today (17MAR20) a new Luftbruecke was kicked off by the German government in Berlin: an airlift caused by the coronavirus crisis and aimed at bringing stranded vacationers back home who had been
marooned abroad due to travel bans induced by many countries alarmed by the fast spread of the disease.
German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, announced in Berlin today that up to 50 million euros would be made available for this patriotic and humanitarian act. He said that the main target groups
were tourists in Morocco, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, the Philippines and the Maldives. Literally, the Social Democrat partisan spoke of a “new airlift.”
Simultaneously, the government issued a travel warning.
Many tourists are stranded because their return flights to Belgium, Germany, Portugal or the Netherlands have been cancelled by local governments, as done so by highly frequented Morocco for
Lufthansa jumps in
The same applies to Majorca, the Canary Islands and in the Caribbean. Lufthansa and its low-cost subsidiary, Eurowings, were assigned to fly up to 6,500 individuals back home. This led to 15
charter flights being operated until Wednesday night, bringing back roughly 4,000 vacationers from the Dominican Republic and Barbados to Germany. On long-haul routes, Boeing 747s and A340s are
utilized, flying empty to the Caribbean or Canary Island and returning to Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin or Munich fully loaded with passengers.
To enable tourists to return home as quickly as possible, the state of Berlin has temporarily lifted the night flight ban for international flights at Tegel Airport (TXL). This measure is
effective immediately, remaining in place until 22 March. Late aircraft can thus land at any time in the capital city, preventing deviations and further delays.
Lufthansa’s subsidiary, Austrian Airlines, has grounded all but two of its aircraft for the next 10 days, and is using those to bring home stranded tourists such as from Marrakesh, Morocco
yesterday, and Italy last week. Citizens finding themselves stuck in other countries are well advised to contact their embassy, as these flights are being coordinated with them.
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