This is what the NATO exercise “Air Defender” means for Berlin and Brandenburg

NATO plans to hold the air force exercise “Air Defender 2023” for almost two weeks from Monday, 12 June 2023. This will also have an impact on Berlin and Brandenburg – especially on air passengers.

 

What is planned for “Air Defender 2023”?

From 12 June 2023 to 23 June 2023, 25 nations and 10,000 soldiers with 250 aircraft, including 70 aircraft from Germany, will take part in the “Air Defender 2023” manoeuvre under German leadership. The armed forces are rehearsing defence together. According to Federal Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, this is the largest exercise of air forces since the founding of NATO. The exercise is intended to practice the assistance scenario, i.e. the case in which one or more NATO partners are attacked and the other allies provide assistance.

The German Air Force will send 64 aircraft into the air. Eurofighters, Tornados, A400Ms and A330 AARs for refuelling, as well as LJ35s, A-4s and support helicopters will practice over Germany. American and Dutch F-35 fighter jets are also taking part.

 

I have booked a flight that takes place during the period of the exercise. What do you need to be aware of?

During the two-week operation, three airspaces are to be temporarily closed to civilian air traffic from Monday to Friday. No exercises are likely to take place at weekends. Passengers must expect considerable delays or even flight cancellations during the two weeks. The Air Force, on the other hand, spoke of minimal effects, but passengers should better not rely on this when planning their flights.

The exercise is so large that it will have an impact on the entire European airspace. Airlines often fly to several airports a day with one aircraft. Delays can occur on each individual connection, which then accumulates over the course of the day. It is impossible to predict when and where delays or flight diversions will occur. If the military exercise were not secret in its course and if those involved did not have the possibility to change plans spontaneously, it would make little sense. That is why the airlines have been reluctant to communicate about “Air Defender” so far. They do not want to unsettle their passengers.

 

Am I entitled to compensation?

Unfortunately, this is quite unlikely, as the airlines also suffer from the plans and the plans are not their responsibility.

However, if a flight is cancelled completely, which should be the exception, the usual rights apply: you are entitled to a refund of the price of the ticket or a rebooking on the earliest possible next flight; if you have to stay overnight because of the delay, for example, you are also entitled to a hotel. In the event of denied boarding, the airline cannot invoke force majeure either.

It will probably be like this: If the military leaders want to refuel their fighter jets in the air, even though it is actually the civilian flight slot down at BER Airport that should be taking off, then they will simply do it. In view of the size and importance of this exercise for a military emergency, NATO will attach little importance to the effects on the rest of the air traffic. After all, the manoeuvre has been signed off by all Nato partners.

 

Are there any ideas on how to limit the impact on passengers?

The ban on night flights will be softened somewhat during the two-week exercise. The Joint Aviation Authority Berlin-Brandenburg said that in the case of delayed flights, it will examine on a case-by-case basis whether an exemption can be granted for take-offs and landings outside operating hours. Since such exceptions are common practice in the summer season, this is very likely. Flights are already landing with delays until around 1 am. Normally, there is a strict flight ban at BER Airport between 0:00 am and 5:00 am. No scheduled flights are allowed to take off or land from 11:30 pm to 0:00 am and from 5:00 am to 5:30 am.

These exceptions are also more than important, because the aircraft must be at their destination in time in the evening to be able to take off again on schedule the next day. However, the risk of delays due to the “Air Defender” effects is high. If the planes were to arrive after BER Airport had closed and the night flight ban had come into effect, they would not make it in time for take-off the next day – and so the delays would only drag on and on. Which fosters chaos.

 

Do the military planes also fly at night during the two weeks?

No. The training flights are to take place in three airspaces, which will be used alternately on weekdays. Manoeuvres will be practised at altitudes between 2,500 and 10,000 metres. The eastern training area over Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the Baltic Sea will be the only one reserved for low-level flights from 10 am to 2 pm. It covers Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, part of Berlin-Brandenburg and a large area between Leipzig and Dresden.

The other airspaces do not affect passengers from Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Noise pollution should also be kept within limits, although there is no more precise information on this from those responsible. We are curious.

 

What do I have to bear in mind when parking at BER?

If you have booked a parking space at BER with Dein Stellplatz, you can change or cancel it free of charge up to 24 hours before arrival.

With our all-round protection package you are even more flexible! You really can change or cancel your parking space free of charge up to the last minute and take no risk. Your parking fees will be refunded.

If you have booked this upgrade, there are no additional costs for a possible extension of up to 24 hours.

We also remain flexible on the shuttle transfer. However, as the effects of flight delays cannot be predicted, there may be waiting times in individual cases.

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