When I usually think about a European premium airline, Lufthansa typically comes to mind. Furthermore, if asked about traveling on a German airline, the behemoth airline group Lufthansa is usually the first to be mentioned. Many travel bloggers rave about Lufthansas’ first class product and often times overlook much smaller airlines such as AirBerlin. Despite this, I had the opportunity to fly AirBerlin a few months ago and I must say I was overly impressed with AirBerlin’s long haul inflight service and preferred their new business class seat, plane configuration, and soft product to that of the much larger Lufthansa. My trip was from Florence, Italy to Stuggart, Germany where I stayed overnight and then continued to Berlin-Tegel before departing to Miami in Business. AirBerlin does not offer short haul business product, but in my honest opinion business class in Europe is a joke/Tommy Class on most airlines, therefore I was not disappointed with the lack of business class on both of these short flights. Therefore, after two short economy class flights I was ready to kick back, relax and try out AirBerlin’s business class offering.
AirBerlin Business Class Boarding
After two short flights, I arrived at Berlin-TXL, briefly checked out the Air France lounge which partners with AB, switched planes, cleared security again and customs (WARNING – each gate at TXL has their own security and customs, do not enter the gate area until you are ready to board the aircraft as lounges are all airside landside) just in time to board with group two as business class passengers had already boarded.
The plane used a remote gate requiring transfer via shuttle and required waiting for the bus to fill before transferring us to the plane. I honestly hate remote gates for this reason, as once I board I like to be able to get settled on the aircraft, after all no one likes the hurry up and wait game! The shuttle was quick thankfully and once at the plane, the A330 used stairways at doors 2L and 4L, making boarding quick and easy and allowed for only business class passengers to pass through the forward cabin, turning left once on the plane. FAs were visible in both doorways, were very friendly and directed passengers to their seats.
The FA did not walk me to my seat, but did point me towards the business class cabin. I quickly found my seat in a cabin that was about 80% full and started to make myself comfortable before being greeted by the purser who offered me a pre departure beverage of champagne, water, or juice. I opted for the champagne, and went back to exploring my seat and amenities. Each seat had a Tumi amenity kit and a menu on the tray table. There was also a duvet and medium size pillow on each seat.
Airberlin business class FAs were friendly and attentive, refilled drinks while the economy class cabin finished boarding and even filled the request of the boisterous man ahead of me who was scared to fly and was certain to get drunk and pass out. He nervously babbled with anyone and everyone who would listen. 30 minutes after boarding the cabin was cleaned up and we taxied and took off towards Miami.
gate area- leaves a lot to be desired, lounges are presecurity/landside
Remote gate required a trip down the escalator and a bus ride
Airberlin’s A330 – FA passing out candy as you enter
AirBerlin Business Class Menu, Amenity kit, and Headphones at each seat upon boarding
pictures of the seat before take off and pre-departure drink in real glassware!
Spectacular – The only world that can describe my inflight experience on AirBerlin!
About 15 minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew was busy in the cabin offering passengers drinks and taking orders. Drinks were provided with warn nuts and then followed by a delicious appetizer. Staff members were attentive throughout the entire meal service, drinks were never empty and the crew was extremely friendly, personable and on the spot the entire time.
The new inflight training provided by Etihad truly shines, as FAs treat each passenger as though they are dining in a 5 star restaurant. No large service carts were used and each item is personally delivered with a smile and placed on top of the linen tray table. Even when wine is served, the wine is elegantly poured at the customer’s seat, held by the FA with a white towel and the customer is encouraged to sample the wine before being served a full glass. The same level of service one would expect at a Michelen rated restaurant. Want a refill, the FA will being the bottle to you, not just a new glass! When I inquired about the service, the FA confirmed that it was just one of the many changes to the inflight service since the training manual was rewritten by Etihad.
Dinning was a bit different than one would expect as the flight took off at 9:25am and the meal wasn’t immediately served. Instead after the initial beverage and warm nut service a good morning snack was served which included fresh fruit and a small triangle sandwich. It was like an afternoon tea snack. Then after the cabin was cleaned up, the FAs took dinner orders and about 90 minutes into flight dinner service began. This is great if you’re not hungry for lunch yet, but bad if you plan on sleeping the entire flight. Dinner service was awesome, served in 5 courses, and was absolutely amazing. Hands down among the best airplane food I’ve had to date (yes even better than what I’ve had on Cathay Pacific Business class)!
AirBerlin Business Class Menu:
I wish american carriers would offer better drink selections like these!
Good morning meal – Fresh Fruit salad, Triangle sandwich with gouda and green pesto
Warm nuts and wine followed by appetizer of Fresh seasonal salad with Italian dressing and my choice of Rillette of Shrimp with Mango and chili. Bread pretzel rolls were abundant and delicious, I ate a few to many!
Dinner option: Shrimps and Scallop on Saffron risotto with Sauteed carrot slices, broccoli florets and lemon sauce
smallest cheese plate ever 🙁 and a delicious blueberry Tart with vanilla sauce
After dinner was completed, I put my seat into sleep mode, enjoyed a few more rounds on the house and passed out. The seat was short, as I am only 5’10” and I almost didn’t fit into the 6 foot seat. Thankfully I did and was very comfortable for the 9 hour flight, however if I was taller than 6 feet, this hard product would hardly be comfortable. Either way, the 1x2x1 seating was great, better than the 2×2 seating offered on the upper deck of the Lufthansa 747-8i aircraft and the new large 15” HD TV offered tons of movies, TV shows and music to entertain people of all ages.
FAs often passed through the aisles, kept drinks full and the minute I woke up noticed I was awake and offered me a snack before breakfast! Seriously the service was on par with Asian carriers and I was shocked to find myself on a European carrier! Clearly Etihad’s investment was making a difference in service standards!
I had a craving mid flight – Chivas & candy
90 minutes before landing, breakfast was offered with fresh espresso or cappuccinos. I had woke up about an hour before the pre-arrival meal service and indulged in some snacks so I was not nearly as hungry as I could have been but was looking forward to the light cold meal. Before the meal, hot towel service was provided and then was followed by the meal. The meal wasn’t anything special, but was good enough to hold me over until I made it through customs and could get some non-airplane food—not to mention it tasted better than a lot of pre-arrival meals I have had.
Chicken Breast in coconut covering with vegetable salad Punjabi style and coffee chili flavored cream cheese garnished with dried petals, Raspberry Butter cream Cake, Cream cheese garnished with walnut.
AirBerlin Business Class Seat, Amenities, & IFE
The new AirBerlin hard and soft product is a HUGE improvement over what AB offered before the product refresh and investment by Etihad. Mike flew AB’s former product and didn’t seem too impressed, but I will say with the new inflight guide and training being provided by Etihad, not only has serviced improved, but the hard product is leap and bounds better than the angle flat seat previously offered. The 19 Sogerma business class seats are crammed into the forward cabin, lay completely flat, but are only 71 inches in length. Meaning anyone 6 feet or taller is longer than the seat will have to curl up to fit into this seat, as AirBerlin and Sogerma only had the shorter travelers in mind when designing this seat.
If traveling alone, consider the true window seat. Seats A & K have a nice work station that separates the seats from the aisles, but would require even a skinny person to suck in when squeezing into the seat. Couples are advised to book row 1, 3, or 5 E & F as these are love seats. And single travelers are advised any other seat unless you want to get cozy with your neighbor!
Each seat lays completely flat, is a bone crunching 71” in length (bone crunching for business class but amazing for main cabin—haha), includes spa like features like an a Tumi amenity kit full of all the needed items and a personal electronic masseuse. In addition to the private inflight bed, personal masseuse, amenities items suitable for a high end business traveler, each seat has a personal theater fully equipped with a 15 inch LED touchscreen monitor loaded with the latest movies and old school Hollywood hits to celebrate the good ol’ days. Not to mention, in this theater, not only do you get Boise noise canceling headphones, a remote control, massage chairs, dine on demand, unlimited booze and snacks, but this chair takes your form point A to B!
Jokingly aside, the service was refined and polished, the pillow large and blanket extremely comfortable. I couldn’t ask for more!
each seat has a cup holder, reading light, small storage for loose items, and a tiny remote control to use with the IFE
I had seat 4C and rested quite comfortably
power ports, usb ports, and head phone jacks all within reach of the seat
Traveler beware, the cubby for your feet is small, feet only feet sideways! (and if case you are wondering for comparison sake I wear a US 10 or EU 44)
the ottoman lifts up for additional storage underneath, but is very small
In all honesty, AirBerlin in my opinion offers one of the best inflight business class experiences I have had in a long time. Their ground experience and lounge offerings could use some serious work, but for an airline that offers so few business class flights I was left overly impressed and am now longing to fly AirBerlin on my next TATL flight! Their FAs were polished and friendly, the food was among the best I’ve had in the sky and the seat, despite being small was extremely comfortable. In my book I would give AB 9/10 for inflight experience, far above most airlines I have flown to date!
How did I book this flight?
I booked this flight as part of a 100,000 miles business class award (50,000 miles one way) using American Airlines Advantage Miles. I flew over on US Airways from San Diego to Rome Via Philly and then flew Florence to Stuggart to Berlin to Miami to San Diego. The routing wasn’t the best, but allowed me to check out two more Italian cities and fly both US and Air Berlin for the first time in Business class. Not to mention, I booked this flight only 1 week before departure! You too can book this award and the US Airways Credit Card can help, new card holders (yes this card can be churned) receive 40,000 miles after their first purchase. US airways has all the same OneWorld partners as AA and Dividend miles will become Advantage miles next year when the two programs merge!