Review of Air Berlin flight Chicago Berlin in Economy

Airline Air Berlin
Flight AB7421
Class Economy
Seat 27D
Aircraft Airbus A330-200
Flight time 08:15
Take-off 27 Dec 15, 15:45
Arrival at 28 Dec 15, 07:00
AB   #84 out of 141 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 77 reviews
Nick
By 5756
Published on 20th January 2016
This is the first report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays, horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy, but they rejected it. According to them, that expense isn't covered under the terms of the policy. Obviously, I believe it is covered and am appealing. I do not recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them; this is the first time I had to make a claim and it's not a good process.

The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.


—– Chicago O'Hare to Berlin Tegel (AirBerlin Economy): You Are Here
—– Berlin Tegel to Milan Linate (AirBerlin Economy):

———- Milan Malpensa to Tunis (Tunisair Economy):

————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business):
————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business):
————— Kinshasa to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business):
————— Johannesburg to Windhoek (South African Airways Business):
————— Windhoek to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business):
————— Johannesburg to Lagos (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight
————— Lagos to Istanbul (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight
————— Istanbul to Tunis (Turkish Airlines Business): Cancelled Flight

———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show

——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business):
——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business):

—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business):
—– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First):
—– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First):


O'Hare was what you'd expect in terms of crowds being just a couple days after Christmas.

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Emotional support perhaps?

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I took a stroll around the terminal to check out other widebodies that may be parked at their gates. Sometimes in Terminal 3 you can see the Japan Airlines 777 bound for Narita getting prepped for flight, but didn't see it today. This guy was all I could find.

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Caught a glimpse of our Air Berlin bird from the other side of the terminal, then finally walked back over to our gate.

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Boarding was a little hectic as there was a San Francisco flight boarding immediately next to us, but overall it went pretty smoothly. There was some sort of Lutheran church group from Ohio on this flight and it seemed like this was the first overseas trip most of them had been on.

AA agents checked everyone's passports as we got in line and the flight attendants passed out candy as we boarded.




I was pleased to find a full amenity kit despite being in economy.

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The pasta dish they served for dinner was actually pretty good. The service on this flight was also outstanding. All the flight attendants were really nice, including the guy who served me dinner and joked about me not being able to handle German beer because I'm American. They came around with drinks at 16:45 Chicago time (an hour after departure) and dinner was served by 17:26 with another round of drinks.

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I managed to get a few hours of sleep despite the seat being rather uncomfortable. The part of the seat that meets your lower back just felt very awkward.

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The IFE was very good. Nice big screen with good resolution and a big selection. My only gripe was that the map just shows the great circle path between the plane and the origin and destination. I much prefer the breadcrumb style maps.

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Breakfast service was complete by 05:41 Berlin time and we were wheels down at 07:00 Berlin time. We went through passport control immediately after stepping into the terminal and the baggage carousel for our flight was just on the other side of the passport control booths. I went in the All Passports line instead of the EU one which turned out to be a mistake because the EU line had almost no one in it but they were accepting anyone, not just EU citizens.

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I had a pretty long layover before my flight to Milan, but it was during the middle of the day so I had the opportunity to go downtown and walk around Berlin for a while (I had never been there before). Tegel airport is not a very nice place to kill time as it's small and doesn't even have many bathrooms. There's a dire need for the new airport (which has been plagued by construction problems) to get up and running.

Using the TXL bus from the terminal to go downtown was relatively painless. I bought a transit day pass at the airport and got off the bus when I saw the Hauptbanhoff (main train station), then used the train to get around for the rest of the day.




When it was time to get back to the airport I took the train back to a TXL bus stop, hopped on there, and headed back to the terminal.

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Verdict

Air Berlin

8.1/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering8.0

Chicago - ORD

5.4/10
Efficiency5.0
Access6.0
Services5.5
Cleanliness5.0

Berlin - TXL

3.4/10
Efficiency3.0
Access3.5
Services3.5
Cleanliness3.5

Conclusion

Great flight on Air Berlin. The cabin looked new and clean, the service was fantastic, and we got in relatively on time. As I mentioned earlier in the report, the only things to complain about were the lower back support in the seat and the lack of a breadcrumb style map. Those are both very minor issues though. Overall I really enjoyed the flight. The same can't be said for the airport. Tegel is very tired looking and not somewhere anyone looks forward to going. It's a shame that the construction of Brandenburg has been so mismanaged because the city of Berlin definitely deserves a better airport than Tegel.

Related

16 Comments

  • Comment 156034 by
    East African 1519 Comments

    Wow what a fascinating series to come!

    Overall a good product for AB, i just thought they would fly accross the Pond to only sun and sea destinations like MIA.

    The cabin looks new indeed but a bit boring since there is no headrest cover on the seats.

    Nice bonus but BER is just a joke...

    Many thanks for sharing Nick and definitely looking forward to more! :-D

  • Comment 156064 by
    SKYTEAMCHC GOLD 8153 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report with us. It's not so often that we read about Air Berlin on long haul flights.
    I was quite surprised ( in a good way) by the global quality of the flight.
    The tummy amenity kit is great and the meal looks good.
    Like East African, i am a bit dissapointed by the cabin that looks dark and quite boring.
    As for BER, the opening has been postponed so many times that I am very skepitkal about an opening in the near future.
    Looking forward to future reports.

    • Comment 333447 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for taking the time to comment SKYTEAMCHC! Air Berlin puts out a good product overall. I agree the monotone seats can make the cabin seem a bit dull, but it looks decent in person. The amenity kit, meal, and IFE were all top end for long haul economy.

  • Comment 156086 by
    Mikhil 25 Comments

    Thanks for sharing! Don't see other airlines, even the premium airlines, giving out such a comprehensive amenity kit! However, in comparison to airlines like SQ, the meal portion seems relatively smaller! Good read, happy travels!

  • Comment 156171 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5224 Comments

    Awesome report and beginning of what looks to be an interesting series of flights! Sorry about the problems with SAA, UA, and the Travel Insurance company! I'm sure we'll get more details on that later.

    Emotional support perhaps?
    - LOL, I hope not! That dog looks more stressed out than anyone who would need an emotional support animal! People are always cheating the system, though, to avoid paying fees. One thing's for sure...that ain't no guide dog!

    Wow, that amenity kit is as good or better than most airlines in Business class! Looks a lot like the TUMI ammenity kits I used to get on DL! craziness, I tell ya

    All the flight attendants were really nice, including the guy who served me dinner and joked about me not being able to handle German beer because I'm American
    - Haha, Yeah, we don't all drink Bud light, lol.

    Tegel airport is not a very nice place to kill time as it's small and doesn't even have many bathrooms
    - Tegel is hot mess...one day we'll have BER...whenever that opens!

    Thanks for sharing looking forward to the rest of the series!

    • Comment 333698 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for all your comments Kevin. The amenity kit and the flight attendants really rounded out the great onboard experience. Air Berlin could really compete once management of the BER project gets its act together.

  • Comment 156214 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this great FR on not common carrier for the site (AB)!

    Seeing the cabin, the first word that comes to mind: sterile. They could sure you some color, I was expecting more red in the cabin based on their livery, not all navy blue seats.

    TUMI amenity kits in Y is a real nice touch, that’s even better than some J kits.

    The dinner catering looks okay, not much more than you would see on an US carrier, I was expecting a tray that looked more comparable to LH group carriers. Breakfast was a continental offering?

    Being an EY person, I’m not surprised by the excellent service level (soft-product), that seems to be an instant upgrade to all partner airlines. So the good crew definitely helps distinguish AB as a smaller TATL operator.

    • Comment 333699 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Hey NGO85, thanks for reading and all the comments. The pasta was the best part of dinner, the cole slaw and cake weren't very good. I agree the cabin looks a little sterile, but the fantastic service and TUMI amenity kits certainly made up for it.

  • Comment 156359 by
    Chibcha 432 Comments

    Thanks for this FR, I'm looking forward for the next parts of your series!

    AB seems like a great option for transatlantic trips, as many have commented, the amenity kit even looked better than those handed on other airlines' J class.

    • Comment 333801 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for commenting Chibcha! Air Berlin is definitely a great option for transatlantic trips. The only downside is that spending time in TXL during the connection isn't very pleasant.

  • Comment 156613 by
    BombieFlyer 93 Comments

    Hello Nick!

    What a great trip with Air Berlin! I am very surprised at the level of service they provided for economy class passengers. An amenity kit from Tumi? Delta gives it to its DeltaOne passengers! And the pasta looks good too!

    Speaking of World Nomads, I've been their customers for a couple of years now. I always buy travel insurance from them whenever I do long-haul flights. So far, I have not had complaint about their service simply because I have never claimed anything. Would you care to elaborate more as to why they rejected your claims and made you not recommending them anymore? I am very keen to know your perspective.

    Anywho, thanks for this flight report! I look forward for the next report

    • Comment 333927 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment BombieFlyer! Air Berlin definitely impressed with their service on this flight.

      My claim with World Nomads centers around a delay of several hours on a flight leg from Johannesburg to Lagos which would have caused a misconnect for my onward flight to Istanbul. According to South African Airways, the delay was due to hot weather which wouldn't allow the plane to take off. There is only one flight per day on South African Airways from Johannesburg to Lagos and only one flight per day from Lagos to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. South African Airways and United Airlines (who I bought the ticket through) both said it was each other's problem to re-accommodate me, so neither was willing to reroute me. This meant I was facing a 24 hour delay in either Johannesburg or Lagos. Such a delay would jeopardize the rest of my trip, so I purchased a new ticket on Qatar Airways. I'm covered by World Nomads for Trip Interruption which is at least 24 hours in duration and due to either weather or a labor strike. World Nomads rejected my claim on the basis that my flight from Johannesburg to Lagos was only delayed several hours rather than assessing the overall circumstances which ultimately would result in a 24 hour delay. I'm currently appealing and I'll update the story in future flight reports. My biggest fear when buying travel insurance was that I'd incur some huge expense during a tense situation which required a quick decision and that the insurer would take advantage of the murky circumstances to sidestep their obligations. Fears realized.

  • Comment 157628 by
    Reifel 39 Comments

    Thanks for sharing. Interesting, I got exactly the same amenity kit in business class on STR-AUH on airberlin :)

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