Friday, May 11, 2012

The Truth About German Efficiency

The sudden announcement that Berlin's new airport will not open as scheduled on June 3, 2012, has made many Germans reconsider their famed "German Efficiency" standard. The announcement that the airport will now open in the the fall because of safety infrastructure issues has caused confusion and logistical problems for airport personnel, businesses, passengers, and the airlines.

Originally, Berlin's two other airports (Tegel and Schönefeld) were to close immediately following the opening of the new Willy Brandt International Airport. Consequently, airline and travel companies booked hundreds of thousands of passengers from Willy Brandt. (For example, my return ticket has me scheduled to leave from Willy Brandt.) Now, those passengers will need to be issued new tickets, and perhaps, be booked on different flights. This will cost the airlines millions. 

The delay has also placed many retailers in an untenable predicament. Many businesses scheduled to open at the new airport have already hired employees and ordered products. Contracts have been signed and some goods already delivered. The new airport has been beset with problems from the start, including bankruptcy, fight path issues, environmental concerns, and of course, cost over-runs.

Germany has long been known for its efficiency, and efficiency means punctuality! For example, there's a dinner-party rule: never be 15 minutes late. (And it's followed to the letter.) Efficiency also means ingenuity. For example, last night there was a fierce rainstorm. In Germany, I didn't need to close the windows. That's because most windows are sunk several inches into a building's face, and can be tilted open at the top rather than sliding up from the base. Ah, now that's German efficiency. 

Germany takes pride in its efficiency, and it has good reason to do so. However, this airport delay has highlighted what I've known for years. Germany is no better or worse than other countries when it comes to efficiency.

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