first class around the world air berlin business class review
 BUSINESS CLASS IN-FLIGHT TEST: 
AIRBERLIN A330 - 200 
LONG HAUL FLIGHT  
(BERLIN TXL - NEW YORK JFK)
 
 
 
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air berlin review long haul business class
 



Established in 1978 as a charter operator, Airberlin became one of the major players in the airlines industry in 1990, when German investors acquired a majority stake in the company which joined IATA and moved towards scheduled flights. This is now Germany’s second largest airline after Lufthansa, and Europe's sixth largest airline in terms of passengers. It was time to experience and review this important member of the Oneworld Alliance, operating 144 planes over an extensive network including holiday destinations in the Mediterranean region, the Canary Islands and North Africa as well as intercontinental destinations in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas. We got further motivation after checking the dynamic campaign promoting the totally and richly revamped Business Class cabin on-board the 13 Airbuses A330-200s integrated in the fleet between 2007 and 2010, when  Airberlin completed the full integration of LTU.

Though AB flies from major German cities, it has a couple of hubs:  Düsseldorf (DUS), and Berlin-Tegel (TXL) which is the largest. Flights to New-York JFK operate from both hubs. It has one daily flight from TXL to JFK via DUS, plus one daily Non-Stop flight from TXL. We used the later (code AB 7248), leaving TXL at 13:00, and arriving at JFK at 15:45. An excellent schedule, indeed, for tourists and business travellers alike.

Voted "Best Low-Cost Airline Europe 2010" and "Europe’s youngest fleet", Skytrax World Airline Award, this is a “3 Star Airline” by Skytrax standards,  AB shows spotless security records.  Our first experience with Airberlin was its easy to use, informative homepage which needs some time for a visit, as it contains a lot of attractive flight -but also tours, cars and hotels- offers, “Rail&Fly” money saving programme with the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), and plenty of exciting information about AB service, fleet and operated airports.

As always, our target is the business class. We could read reviews published in forums some years ago describing and outdated C class cabin, with cramped seats and faded design. This used to be true. Since AB spent a huge budget to upgrade a cabin which, in term of comfort and service, is no “low cost” style anymore, the experience was beyond our expectation and started from the efficient check-in. We arrived far in advance: 8am... and our flight was scheduled in the early afternoon; as soon as we reached TXL by bus, after a short 30 minutes ride from Berlin Hauptbanhof main railways station (TXL is conveniently central), the AB staff checked our ticket and luggage: allowing us to use the nice British Airways Terraces lounge for a pleasant rest. Organized in a circle, TXL is quite small, cramped and doesn't distinguish itself with comfort: this lounge, leased by BA for all its C class passengers, is an oasis of tranquillity and relief in this old fashioned airport which BA will hopefully switch in 2013 in favour of the brand new, much more convenient Brandenburg International Airport. The British Airways Terraces lounge has got only two defaults: it has no toilet nor shower, and it is located land-side: it was therefore necessary to leave it quite in advance to get time enough to comply with the relatively quick security check before boarding. It has nice F&B options, featuring good liquors and sandwiches. The seats and deep sofas are plentiful, and the panoramic view on the runways is attractive. There is a smoking area. A limited selection of magazine and reviews, plus an open WiFi network all make for a pleasant wait. 

airberlin british airways business class lounge berlin tegel

JFK is a best seller with AB, which offers extremely attractive fares in both classes. Lots of passengers were waiting at the gate. Business Class passengers are called first (same experience the way back from JFK), and the boarding comes as smooth as silk.

Now, let's forget Airberlin “low cost” image. Bright, slick and roomy, the C Class
cabin is splendid! First of all, we loved the courtesy of the young and lovely attendants: smiling from boarding until landing, anticipating and obviously happy to deal with their job, they promptly offered us some newspapers, refreshing towels and a glass of “sekt” (this was actually a good, refreshing Sansibar Prosecco Spumante; no Champagne...). Then, we had seven hours left to enjoy the pleasure of flying in a good environment. The AB wide-bodied Airbus A330-200 seats 303 passengers at ease. The Business Class cabin has been generously designed for 24 passengers only. On the TXL-JFK route it is usually full: this was the case on our flight, and the level of comfort and service remained optimum. We liked the 2-2-2 display of the seats, which made us feel like in F class; many airlines came back to the cramped 2-3-3 configuration (Air France and surprisingly even the excellent Turkish Airlines adopted this cheap plan recently). The seats are separated by wide arms (featuring electronic remote controls, a small video screen and, further back, AC/DC sockets for a laptop), and we hardly noticed that we had a neighbour. With a generous pitch and a  width of 50cm, the seating position is ideal. We sleep very easily in F and C class. We already know that some passengers don't like so much the slightly down, not totally horizontal 170° tilt angle of the 181 cm long, intuitively operated seat on its bed position: this is true that, at very first sight, it gives the impression that you might glide down during your sleep. One tip: keep your seat-belt fasten, and this suggestive fear will disappear on the spot, allowing a pleasant sleep... after the delicious lunch which makes all the difference between AB and its competitors.

airberlin business class cabin

“Sansibar”, the exclusive AB F&B caterer, is a restaurant nestling in the dunes on the island of Sylt (a fashionable holiday destination in Germany, this is one of the North Frisian Islands). Prospective diners usually have to reserve a table weeks in advance. The place is reputed for both its specialities and excellent wine exported throughout the world. We explored the exhaustive “à la carte” menu one hours after taking off. It proposed exciting items like “Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Thai Rice”, “Brisket of Beef in Gravy”, “Tortellini filled with Gruyère” and, this was our selection, palatable “Prawns Sansibar Style, with Vegetable Brunoise”. It came to our seat as soon as we had finished our aperitif and our appetizer (amazingly well displayed and yummy “Crab Claws with Cocktail Sauce and Jicama Salad”). Our way back from JFK, the menu was totally different, with surprising -though appealing- aromas: our “Roasted Fillet of Sea Bass with Corn Cakes, sautéed Spinach and Mango Salsa garnished with Patty Pan” was looking and tasting everything but airlines food. Airberlin C Class catering is sexy, indeed, with its oriental, quite intrepid notes. Desserts remain on the classic side: “American Cheese Cake with Raspberry Swirl” and “Strawberry Crumble Cake” are part of those old values which pleasing any palate. The wine selection is only spoiled by the absence of Champagne; else we liked the wise alternation of wines from the new world (South Africa), with classy Italian and French grape varieties from excellent vineyards. We always liked wine from the French Loire region, and ordered with excitement one glass of “Robert-only Sansibar, 2011 Domaine Tinailler, Robert Bauer”. More original than the blend, industrially produced Bordeaux proposed by most airlines, this quite confidential product, only known by some cellar trackers, ideally paired our dinner. The selection of actually fresh small breads and pretzel is remarkable. All meals are served in nice china, and the cutlery is nicely designed.

airberlin business class food catering drink


We received a smart toiletry (by L'Occitane), blanket, quality pillow, and earphones with a good sound reproduction. The entertainment programme can be compared with what the best airlines usually offer on display: more than 200 hours of blockbusters and classic movies, TV series and a great selection of music. The 8.9 inch high resolution monitor uses the latest LED technology and is operated via a touchscreen. It has a USB port for operating small electronic devices such as a computer or a smartphone. We rather prefer to sleep on long-haul (this why we like to fly F or C class); but we could see lots of passengers using this equipment during the all flights.

Landing was as smooth and punctual as takeoff. We arrived right on time in JFK: at 15:45. C Class passengers leaved the aircraft in priority... and got the “privilege” to gain 5 minutes waiting time in the indescribable queue expecting the travellers in the chaotic, overcrowded and overheated JFK, where the immigration officers tend to treat everybody equally: slowly and arrogantly, chatting with their colleagues or sipping tea or Coke. US airports do not have any fast track immigration facilities for premium cabin passengers upon arrival (unless they are members of the diplomatic corps)... Note that our way back with AB 7249 (departing JFK at 17:30 and arriving TXL next day at 07:25), we surprisingly received a fast track with our boarding pass, got through the “First Class” security-check gate, and promptly joined the American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge. AB passengers are invited to use this very large, comfortable, though relatively crowded lounge, and receive a couple of vouchers for complementary drinks by the bar. 

Airberlin offers a courtesy limousine service, depending how and where the ticket has been purchased.

As a conclusion, we liked this experience very much and found AB a most reliable, comfortable airline with a classy Business Class which is, obviously, actively developed to compete with major airlines. In term of price and schedule, Airberlin is well worth being considered when booking a business or leisure trip to NYC or any further destination where C Class is available. Among some of the many credits AB has most recently won: Best Business Travel Award 2010, the Danish Travel Award’s 2009 for Best Low Fare Airline (they’ve won 3 times!), European Business Award in the Customer Focus category, Skytrax’s World Airline Award for Europe’s best low-cost airline, the Spain Tourism Award for the best German airline operating flights to Spain, "Top Low-Cost Airline 2009" by Wanderlust magazine, ReiseBlick’s Best Airline of the year in the "Short Haul" category and Urlaub Perfekt’s Most Child-Friendly Award.

At the time of our in-flight test (July 2012), Airberlin operates Business Class to/from the following destinations: Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Cancun, Curaçao, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Liberia (Costa Rica), Los Angeles, Male, Miami, Mombasa, Montego Bay, (JFK), Phuket, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, San Francisco, Vancouver, Varadero and Windhoek.

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