When I left for my recent trip to Germany it was onboard an Air Berlin flight. If you’re not familiar, Air Berlin is the 2nd largest airline in Germany and has a history that goes back to the 1970s. The airline has changed a lot in the last decade though, forming new partnerships and extending its reach around the world, including to the United States. It was on one of these American flights that I boarded at JFK airport in New York, eager as always for my first flying experience with a new airline.
On the way to Germany I flew in Economy, but on the way back I was lucky and found myself upgraded to Business class. So it’s with this unique perspective that I want to share my experiences with you.
Economy Flight: New York – Dusseldorf, Germany
First impressions matter, and I have to say that upon boarding I was overall very pleased. My status with the Oneworld Alliance meant that I could board with the first couple of groups, a small comfort that I always enjoy. Flight attendants were smiling and I even found a small amenity kit on my seat, a rarity on trans-Atlantic flights. It was a basic kit with eyeshades, socks and other accoutrements, but a nice perk for an often ignored class of service. Then I sat down.
Before I go on, let me define two airline terms.
Seat Pitch – Technically, it’s the distance from a point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. In other words, it’s the best way we have of comparing legroom. It’s not exact, but it’s the best measurement we have.
Seat Width – This is an easier concept and is just what it sounds like; it’s the width of the seat and for most people is a good indicator of comfort.
Why is this important? Because as soon as I sat in my seat (41C) I knew that the pitch was less than I’d hoped, as evidenced by the fact that my knees were resting not so comfortably on the seat in front of me. I’m 6’2”, 195 pounds. Not massive, but tall and leg room is without a doubt the most important part of the flying experience to me. I knew right away that if the person in front of me were to recline even an inch, that I would be in for an evening of discomfort and pain. Wait, maybe it’s my height that makes me think the seats were small, perhaps you’re saying. Let’s look at the math:
- Air Berlin A330-200 pitch: 30 inches and width of 18 inches.
- Lufthansa A330-300 pitch: 32 inches and width of 17.5 inches
- British Airways Boeing 777-200 pitch: 31 inches and width of 17.5 inches
You may be thinking to yourself that an inch or two isn’t a big deal; except that it is. One extra inch would’ve meant that my knees could exist unencumbered by the tray table, that my already damaged patella wouldn’t be further crushed under the weight of a napping businessman. It’s a technically small difference, but a large one in terms of comfort.
I’ve spent a lot of time harping on this and I feel bad. This alone did not define the flight, but it was an important aspect, at least for me. The quality of the food, the entertainment options and the aforementioned amenity kit were all excellent, far above what I’ve come to expect from other flights traveling a similar distance.
So if you’re not 6’2”, then you probably don’t care about the pitch of the seat. But if you are, then it should absolutely factor in when selecting a seat (Row 14 is the way to go).
Business Class Flight: Berlin – New York
It was with great joy that I settled into my business class seat on Air Berlin, my knees free from tray tables and napping passengers in front of me. I love flying business class and have used my miles on many occasions to enjoy this, the ultimate perk of transcontinental flights. But as I’ve learned not all are made the same, which is why it was great surprise that I discovered Air Berlin to have one of the best business class products I’ve experienced so far.
Business class sections are divided into two camps: seats that convert into flat beds and those that don’t. Before you start muttering curses about the 1%, believe me that the difference is substantial and the best airlines in the world are those that offer their business class customers a completely lie-flat experience. Air Berlin is one of those airlines. The seats are self-contained pods, offering not only comfort but a certain degree of privacy, a nice perk when I start drooling during an unplanned nap.
The service was excellent, just as it was in economy class frankly. I have to applaud Air Berlin for cultivating a friendly atmosphere; the same definitely can’t be said of every airline. Everything from the welcome glass of juice to the final request for coffee was handled with aplomb. One of the flight attendants even made a concerted effort to get to know several of the passengers, to make them feel special. Now that’s a quality I haven’t seen in a very long time.
The lie-flat chair had all the bells and whistles I’ve come to love in a good business class product, even a massage feature with multiple settings. It was a day flight so I didn’t really sleep, but did enjoy putting my feet up as I watched several movies and TV shows using the noise cancelling headphones provided for each passenger. Along with that fabulous chair was an equally impressive amenity kit, one of the ways I evaluate many business class sections. Air Berlin partners with Institut Karite for the kit and included the normal stuff along with shea butter lip balm and extra gentle body milk. Can you tell I was a happy camper?
Overall I rate their business class very high, even better than my experiences with Lufthansa in the past.
Air Berlin a good airline and provides a comfortable product at a good price. They’ve long described themselves as a semi-lowcost airline, offering many perks you won’t find on other truly low-cost carriers. But they also have something intangible and it sounds silly, but it’s a happy airline. Maybe it was the always smiling flight attendants or the chocolate hearts they passed out as we disembarked, but there are dozens of little touches that while not necessary, all contribute to an overall positive flying experience.
8 thoughts on “Air Berlin: A Review of Two Classes”
Great review. I haven’t experienced business class yet, so I can’t say anything about it. I wish they could make economy a little more spacious.
I flew Air Berlin to Palm de Mallorca from Switzerland and was very impressed. Clean, polite , nice. I have NOT heard any bad comments about them and have often heard that they are very good value for money as well as a thorn in Lufthansa’s eye, which I think is bad and expensive. I am flying them again shortly to go to Alicante via Palma . I am also going with them to Miami but shall then go business class. I don’t expect any disagreeable surprises. All to the contrary.
Great to hear your thoughts! As I wrote, I loved Business Class but stand behind my less than favorable opinions of their Economy section
I can only agree. I really like flying with air berlin – even tho I really don’t eat chocolate. They might not be as good as certain asian airlines (ANA, Singapore, etc), but then again they are not as expensive.
I usually use them for flights within Germany/Europe tho, where business class really makes no sense or isn’t even offered. Lufthansa usually is my option when there is no other flight available. But to be fair – there is always a lufthansa flight available – they sure are reliable (and the service is, IMO, better)
On March 20th, 2015. I had an Air Berlin ticket #0012346251358, flight 7001 from Miami International to Rome via Dussendolf. The boarding started around 3:15 p.m.. After several hours inside the plane we were informed by the captain that they were trying to fix a “leak”. After two more hours we were instructed to disembark the aircraft with our carry on and wait inside the terminal. Neither water or any type of food or snacks were offered by Air Berlin employees. Early evening we were told to board the aircraft again with all our belongings, to the incredible surprise that we stayed inside the plane again for more than two hours. Finally the captain informed the passengers that now the aircraft was having computer “issues” and we have to sleep in Miami without any hint as to when the next plane will be ready for us to continue to Dussendolf. Early next morning I went to Air Berlin counter just to find chaos and indifference to all passengers from the day before. I lost a full day of my vacation and the first night oh hotel in Rome. The employees did not know when the next plane will be departing so I run to American Airlines that provided me with connections to Rome. I wrote to customer service to Air Berlin and never a reply answer. Thumbs down to Air Berlin !!!!!!!
Hi! I follow you on Instagram and was thrilled to see this post. I’m flying JFK-Rome on AirBerlin in February and bought the tickets on a whim, so it’s nice to read a review like this. 5’10 here so hopefully won’t be too bad.
Cannot disagree more. This flight was horrendous. Most unorganized, chaotic, poorly run airline in existence. Save your money and do not ride this airline. Pathetic through and through.
I started flying with Air Berlin from Germany to the US for business during a period of strikes by Lufthansa. I did a few flights with them with a few minor problems (delayed flights, delayed luggage); I kept using them as I had already a bunch of miles and a gold status, but the last one was very bad and is the last drop. Here is a list of a few things that will happen when you are using Air Berlin. Connecting in Berlin will require you to change terminals by walking outside and going over security again. Their “lounges” are so bad that are almost always worse than the comparable regular waiting areas from better airlines. A lot of their web site is not working, specially if you are accesing it from outside of Germany. Their phone app is buggy and of very limited functionality. It is very hard to get hold of them on the phone, you have to navigate a maze of menus to get there and then wait for long periods of time. Their phone service is very fragmented, once I get to talk with someone it often happens that he or she can not do what I need and I need to call again. My average has been four calls to get anything done; this is in total with waiting and menu navigation about 45 minutes. Their phone service is not 24 hours, if you are in a different time zone than Germany you may have to actually wake up in the middle of the night to call. It is practically impossible to make use of miles for flight upgrades in their own flights. It is effectively impossible to use their miles to upgrade or buy any service from other airlines on the network. Booking an award fligh on their own flights requires you to call them, again, this is difficult; you can not do it online. My last return flight was cancelled and I arrived with a 12 hour delay back home, losing a whole work day; they didn’t offer lounge access during my 12 hour wait at the San Francisco airport. Now they are delaying and dragging their feet with lots of burocracy to pay the compensation mandated by EU regulations. This is just what I can remember in one go, the list can go on. I definitely do not recommend using Air Berlin.
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