March 2, 2017 / 12:33 PM / 7 months ago

Fate of Berlin airport CEO hangs in balance after staff row

BERLIN, March 2 (Reuters) - Berlin’s long-delayed new airport could be facing further hold-ups, after a supervisory board meeting on the future of the chief executive ended late on Wednesday night without agreement among the project’s owners.

Without seeking approval of the airport supervisory board, CEO Karsten Muehlenfeld last week replaced the airport’s technical chief, Joerg Marks, with outsider and former Deutsche Bahn manager Christoph Bretschneider.

The airport’s management has said the decision was within its mandate and that it informed the supervisory board, led by Berlin mayor Michael Mueller, a day in advance.

The supervisory board, made up of labour representatives and politicians representing the federal state owners, met late on Wednesday to discuss the issue but broke off talks at around midnight after they failed to reach a decision. They will meet again on Monday.

The new international airport has been beset by delays caused by red tape and technical problems, including issues with smoke ventilation systems, cabling and more recently doors.

The city is currently served by two former cold war airports - Tegel in the north west of Berlin and Schoenefeld to the south east of the city. Tegel is due to close once the new airport opens.

In January, Muehlenfeld scrapped plans to open at the end of this year and has yet to set a new opening date.

CDU politician Stefan Evers on Thursday said Muehlenfeld should remain in office or further delays could result.

“The airlines also see it that way. It’s characteristic of (Berlin mayor) Mueller to ignore the advice of experts,” he said in a statement.

Muehlenfeld defended the replacement of Marks in an interview last week, saying he took the decision in order to speed up construction and so that he could deliver a reliable opening date.

“How can I stick to (an opening date) when the construction team has torn up every date in the last few months?” he told Tagesspiegel newspaper. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Toby Davis)

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