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.
Emotional support perhaps?
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.
Caught a glimpse of our Air Berlin bird from the other side of the terminal, then finally walked back over to our gate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chicago - ORD
Berlin - TXL
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.
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