Air-Berlin-Business-Class-Airbus-A330-Berlin-Tegel-Miami-02-720x479

Air Berlin Business Class Berlin-Miami

Background

Air Berlin is Germany’s second largest airline and has its hubs in Berlin and Düsseldorf. The airline has been a member of the Oneworld alliance since 2010. Originally, Air Berlin primarily flew from Germany to various holiday destinations, but they now have an extensive network in Europe and serve a dozen destinations beyond Europe. Air Berlin owns a third of Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad Airways, which they also have an extensive cooperation with.

Air Berlin’s route network outside Europe is focused on North Africa, US, Caribbean and Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi in the Middle East. We booked a ticket on one of Air Berlin’s five US routes – from Berlin Tegel to Miami on an Airbus A330.

At the Airport

I was only in transit in Berlin and had 1 hour and 20 minutes between flights. Needless to say, Berlin Tegel is not the most exciting airport that can be found in Europe and was actually meant to be closed by now and replaced by the new Berlin Brandenburg. Most people are aware how this went – due to a series of delays, the new airport is estimated to open in 2017/2018 after an original planned opening date of 2010. One has to concede, however, that Tegel’s advantage is that it is a compact and uncomplicated airport and there are rarely any long walks.

My flight from Scandinavia arrived at the C-terminal and my connecting flight to Miami departed from the original hexagonal A pier, from gates A00 and A01 – the area of ​​the terminal building used for flights to destinations outside Europe.

Air Berlin does not have its own lounge at Tegel but passengers can make use of the Air France lounge in the departure hall. Air Berlin does offer what it calls “Premium waiting areas”, which are not officially lounges but do offer a space to work or relax while waiting for a flight over a cup of coffee. There are two – one in terminal C and one in terminal A between gates 2 and 3.

Check-in to Miami   

Check-in to Miami

Photo: Jacob Molin

Regardless of the fact I had already checked in, I had to make a short visit to the check-in counter at gate A00 to get travel documents checked and a green sticker attached to my boarding pass. A fairly thorough screening followed complete with a full body search, but otherwise no fuss. Security control was conducted by a humorous young German man who was enthusiastic to discuss my accent (Swedish).

In the waiting area at gates A00 and A01 there was a duty free shop and a sales trolley with coffee shop goods, but otherwise the area was quite small and cramped.

Boarding and First Impressions

25 minutes before departure, boarding began with priority given to business class and status passengers. This was organised quite nicely – a separate desk at gate A00 was used for priority passengers, while the other passengers used gate A01. The gates then connected via a passage.

Once aboard, I took a left turn to locate my seat, 05K, and was somewhat confused to find it labelled ‘Crew rest’. Obviously, check-in staff had made an error as this would have of course been noted in the system, but somehow someone managed to overlook it. The cabin crew were proactive and prepared seat 06C for me – the same seat, but on the other side of the cabin. The flight to Miami was also only half full so I was informed I could choose another place if I wanted.

Business class seat 06C     

Business class seat 06C

Photo: Jacob Molin

The table at seat 06C was already down with the menu placed neatly on it, along with an amenities bag and headphones. It certainly gave a nice first impression. My jacket was taken and I was offered a welcome drink, a choice of champagne, water or orange juice, which was served with a bowl of nuts. Newspapers and magazines were available in the front of the cabin. After take-off I was also offered slippers.

A punctual push-back commenced at 10:25 with a flight time of ten hours to Miami.

Menu, amenities bag and headphones         

Menu, amenities bag and headphones

Photo: Jacob Molin

 

The Seat

Air Berlin has now equipped its entire Airbus A330 fleet with its most modern business class seats. They offer fully-flat capabilities and are arranged in a 1-2-1 in configuration to all destinations. Previously, a more traditional configuration was employed with six seats across.

In Air Berlin’s Airbus A330, business class is located between doors 1 and 2 and consists of 19 seats – four rows in a 1-2-1 configuration – with two additional seats at the front of the middle section (1E/1F) and an additional seat at the rear on the right side (6C).

Two middle seats in business class     

Two middle seats in business class

Photo: Jacob Molin

The seats are positioned in a zigzag configuration. If you sit at a window seat you are either directly next to the window (A and K seats) with a separation between the seat and the aisle, or you are next to the aisle (C and H seats) with the corresponding distance between the seat and the window. A and K are clearly preferable, especially during over-night flights, as they offer increased privacy.

In the centre section, seats are either positioned next to each other (E and F), which creates its own sort of compartment, or rather far apart (D and G).

The seat, when completely reclined, is horizontal (fully flat) and is regulated via a fairly advanced seat control located on the side of the seat. In front of the seat, on the wall beside the ottoman, is the table that folds down and out when it is time to eat. At the side of the seat you find a water bottle holder and storage for magazines or newspapers and small personal items such as a mobile phone or a pair of glasses. Each seat also has three LEDs – a reading lamp above the seat, a reading lamp beside the seat, and mood lighting. I did miss having a cocktail table to place my glass on during the flight, and there was certainly room on the side of the seat. Although you can use the regular table, a cocktail table would be more convenient as the ordinary table limits your ability to sit in certain positions.

The downside of Air Berlin’s business class is that the cabin feels a bit impersonal and untidy. It can give a slightly industrial feel with all the dark grey and the many walls and boundaries – similar problems can be fount with Lufthansa, who also use a lot of grey in their cubicles. Maybe it is German thing? The seat is, in general, both comfortable and functional and lacks very little, but I would have liked softer shapes and colours used in the design.

Entertainment System

The in-flight entertainment system was AVOD (Audio Video on Demand), which can be controlled by a small remote located on the side of the seat. On the remote control was a kind of button that worked much like a computer mouse. I have experienced this function before, but for some it can certainly be a bit confusing at first.

The range of films, TV series and music was okay, but did not stand out. The screen was 16 inches and excellent noise-cancelling headphones were distributed. If you so wish not use the remote control, you can touch the screen directly.

In-flight entertainment system      

In-flight entertainment system

Photo: Jacob Molin

I watched a German film about King Ludwig II, who reigned in Germany in the mid-1800s and who was deeply interested in culture and architecture. I also had time for a few documentaries.

Meals

Air Berlin impressed me with its meal concept. This flight to Miami consisted of no less than three separate meals. The meals were served in accordance to European time, but also so one is not hungry when they arrive in the United States.

Almost directly after take-off, a simple breakfast was served. Barely two hours later, the main meal, lunch, was brought out, and a little over two hours before landing, a cold meal was served.

Up in the air, service began with a cocktail, followed a good half hour later by breakfast. Breakfast comprised of a turkey sandwich with Swiss cheese and a vanilla yogurt with a fruit coulis and muesli.

Breakfast    

Breakfast

Photo: Jacob Molin

Just over two hours after breakfast, a decent lunch was served. Lunch began with a salad with dressing and two choices of starter – beef tenderloin with salad, or herb-marinated shrimp with apple and cellery salad. I asked for a glass of red wine to accompany my meal and received a recomendation for the German red wine “Lucky-Lucky” which she thought I might like while also complementing the food I had ordered. I enjoyed it a lot, quite a fruity wine.

A white cloth was laid on my table and the meal tray was served with my choice of entree – the beef. The wine was served separately and water was poured from a glass carafe. A slice of bread was already on the tray and a further three varieties were offered from a basket.

Starter

Starter

Photo: Jacob Molin    

There were four choices of main course – German meatballs with potatoes and vegetables, diced meat with noodles, tilapia with mango and chilli sauce with basmati rice, and fettucchine with tomatoes and grilled zucchini. I chose the meatballs. They tasted superb and came with quite a spicy sauce and a nice presentation. I ate a similar meal once in Lufthansa’s first class. An additional refill of wine was offered along with more bread.

Main course  

Main course

Photo: Jacob Molin

For dessert there was a choice between a cheese platter with Edam and Sage Derby cheddar, or a cherry pie. I asked if I could test both (I have quite a sweet tooth). This was not a problem as at least one passenger had chosen to completely skip dessert. The cheeses were good but the dish lacked some sort of biscuit or cracker. I ordered a cup of coffee to round off my meal, and also jumped at the offer of a digestif.

Around the middle of the flight, after a couple of hours of sleep, I ordered a cup of coffee to perk myself up. There were a few different snacks available on board, such as biscuits, nuts, chocolate bars and crisps. The stewardess offered me a small selection, but unfortunately the biscuits had run out.

Two hours and 30 minutes before landing, a cold meal was served. It was really up to each passenger to decide when they wanted the meal, but the cabin crew did urge people to place their order quite early in case we experienced any turbulence during the flight, which was the case during the final hour.

Snack before landing    

Snack before landing

Photo: Jacob Molin

The cold meal consisted of chicken breast in a quinoa and tomato salad with curry mayonnaise, with side dishes of cream cheese with grapes and panacotta with strawberry coulis. I skipped the alcohol this time and contented myself with a glass of orange juice.

The beverage selection consisted of Champagne (Louis d’Or Brut, Cuvée Louis le Grand), three whites, three reds and a rosé. Air Berlin cooperate with Restaurant Sansibar on Sylt to develop the German wines that are offered – one of each kind. The other wines were from Italy, France and Spain.

Service

After departure from Berlin, the purser passed through the cabin to greet every passenger. She addressed me by name and noted that I was Emerald status, the highest status level within the OneWorld alliance, and thanked for my loyalty by handing me a small welcome gift of two Lindt chocolate balls. A nice gesture that nonetheless made me smile.

On the whole, the service was both friendly and engaging, nothing whatsoever to complain about. The fact that the cabin was only half full of course helped to create an attentive service.

Additionally, no trollies were used in the cabin, something I always award points for. This means more work for the staff as they must serve directly from galley, but it creates a much more sophisticated and elegant service.

Sleep

With almost 24 hours of flight time and a rather early morning ahead, I chose to recline my seat and get some rest. The seat was perfectly comfortable and a nice quilt was provided. The pillow, however, could have been slightly larger.

Seat reclined       

Seat reclined

Photo: Jacob Molin

C-seats are right next to the aisle and offer quite limited privacy. It is generally preferable to choose an A-seat if you are travelling alone. 06C is, however, one of the better seats in this respect. There were no seats or toilet behind me and, therefore, the only people that needed to pass by were the cabin crew.

I got two hours of much needed sleep.

Arrival

As I said, we experienced some turbulence during the last hour of the flight. We landed in Miami ten minutes before schedule at 13.50. Before landing, every passenger received an Air Berlin chocolate heart, as is tradition. These now have a new supplier, Lindt.

Not far from Miami    

Not far from Miami

Photo: Jacob Molin

Miami is one of the airports that has adopted APC – Automated Passport Control, with the option for travellers in the Visa Waiver Program to use a machine to scan their boarding pass, take a photo and fingerprints, and answer the usual security questions. This speeds up the process considerably. If everything is in order, you just need to go to a desk to get your passport stamped. If more information is needed or there a problem, one must go to a manned desk, but even then the queue is considerably shorter than for the usual process.

My priority tagged luggage was on the band waiting for and customs control was fast. With a pleasant 28 degrees outside a jacket was unnecessary.

Verdict

Generally a positive experience. Very friendly service from the cabin crew, i was treated well as a frequent traveller, and I appreciated the food concept – the whole arrangement seemed well thought out with the three different meals. An additional thumbs up because no carts were used during service. On a negative note, I would like to see a softer cabin design on board. The seat was comfortable and had all the functionality you could wish for from a modern business class seat, but the experience would have been a little bit more pleasant with more aesthetically pleasing colours and shapes.

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