This series covers a longish trip to Italy from last September with my brothers. This was at the cusp of shoulder season so the one-way ticket to Rome was around $470 with AB for the economy seat with XL upgrade, all other *A and OW carriers were in the $1000+ range for one-way fares. I’ve never flown AB before, so figured why not give them a try. It turns out this was the correct decision since it would be my last chance to ever try the now-defunct German carrier. The return legs were a one-way award ticket on LX using 40k Asiana Club miles.
Part 1 – LAX-DUS [AB 7431, Airbus A330-200, Economy] – You are here Part 2 – DUS-FCO [AB 8718, Airbus A320, Economy] – No report Part 3 – FCO-ZRH [LX 1727, Airbus A320, Business] – Here Part 4 – ZRH-LAX [LX 40, Boeing B777-300ER, Business] – Here
This report, a final hurrah for the carrier, will cover the flight from LAX to DUS on AB in their XL seats. The bonus will just have some spotting pictures from DUS since the DUS-FCO flight was quite forgettable.
In the days leading up to this trip, EY announced it was cutting off AB from their financial support and AB promptly declared insolvency. I had booked this flight using my EY Gold status to secure benefits, so there was some confusion as to whether AB would still honor their EY affiliation since the Top Bonus program was temporarily shut down. AB did send out e-mails updating me stating that during the insolvency proceedings, all flights would continue to operate as normal, so no major complaints on AB’s handling of this situation.
The day of departure, I arrived to LAX about 3 hours early. There were no lines at the AB counters so my bag was quickly tagged and I was handed my boarding pass that had both flights on it. Interestingly, it matches my EY Gold status to OW Sapphire status so it appears I get both OW Lounge and EY Lounge access.
I’ve covered the OW Lounge in some other reports, so I won’t talk about it here. I went in for about 45 minutes to use their showers and grab a beer from the bar until my brother arrived at the airport. After my brother cleared security, we met and went upstairs to the new EY Lounge. EY only sends a B772 to LAX so not sure why they need a dedicated lounge here, but I was interested to see what it would offer. When I entered the friendly agent welcomed me to the lounge and gave me a quick tour of the floor plan since it was my first time there. We were the first people in the lounge and had free range of the place for about 30 minutes before some passengers for the EY flight started to trickle in. It was a fairly small lounge and had just a narrow seating area outside of the bar/food area and a roped off corner for first class.
The buffet wasn’t huge, but had a decent selection of hot and cold items with a clear emphasis on Middle Eastern cuisine. I just grabbed some lamb, veggies, and rice to prepare for the great unknown that is AB catering. The food was slightly better quality than the *A and OW Lounges at LAX, but was much more limited in drink selection.
About 50 minutes to departure, we walked over to Gate 135, which is in the nasty un-renovated part of TBIT. The gate area was dark and crowded with what appeared to be a large number of college-aged students going to Europe. There isn’t much to see from our gate, only the tail of our AB A332 was visible.
Boarding was delayed for 15 minutes because the crew was late arriving to the airport. A DL B772 from PVG pulled in to the gate next ours.
Air Berlin, AB 7431 Equipment: Airbus A330-200 [D-ALPI, delivered April 2008] Departure: 17:15 (ATD: 17:32) Arrival: 13:00 (ATA: 12:51) Flight time: 10:19
Boarding was finally called, and it was largely chaotic since the boarding was delayed. There were large masses of people crowding the counters and I couldn’t really figure out what the boarding order was since the gate agents were just yelling in German/English instead of using the PA system. I tried to use my mobile boarding pass on my phone and the gate agent told me I couldn’t use it and demanded to see my paper boarding pass. I pulled the printed boarding pass out of my backpack and gave it to her. She again refused getting sassier with her tone and insisted that I give her the boarding pass from the check-in counter. What is the point of mobile boarding passes and printable boarding passes if you don’t let people use them? TSA had no issue with either of these…
After that sour experience, I finally made it down the dark jet bridge to the plane where a smiling male FA welcomed me in German and directed me to the right. Here is the first glimpse of the main cabin on this A332. This was a newer leased A332 and the plane looked to be well maintained on the inside.
My seat, 19D, which is in the last row of XL. My brother took the aisle seat across from me so that we could both have aisle seats instead of one of us being pinned against the fuselage.
A couple of shots of the seats in the XL section. The normal Y seat pitch looked to be 31” so on par with all the US carriers.
Clean floor and no bulky entertainment boxes.
Seat pitch is standard for extra-legroom economy seats. You get what you pay for.
The screen was average in size and resolution, more on the content (or lack thereof) later. USB ports were on the side of the screen (not my preferred location) and there were AC power outlets under the seats.
Pre-placed on the seats were pillow, blanket, and amenity kit. The amenity kit is definitely a notable feature of AB since its contents are actually quite substantial in this age of endless cost-cutting (maybe the reason they lost the race to the bottom…).
Seatback contents. AB doesn’t have an in-flight magazine?
Safety card on the AB A332.
Boarding was complete with incredible German precision. Despite starting boarding 15 minutes late, they were able to seat the entire plane in less than 25 minutes and as soon as the last passenger stepped on the plane, the door immediately slammed shut and the jetbridge retracted. I’ve seen ERJs take longer to board.
The flight was 100% full, I had a middle-aged German couple occupy the middle seats in my row. The lady next to me felt it necessary to change pants for the flight after boarding the plane so proceeded to drop trousers in my face, definitely one of the more bizarre flight experiences I’ve had.
We had a short taxi given our location at TBIT and we were 2nd inline to take-off. We did the standard western take-off into the Pacific before looping around to heat towards Salt Lake City.
After leveling off, there was an aperitif service, which didn’t include any snacks.
Dinner service didn’t happen until almost 2.5 hours into the flight when we were crossing into North Dakota, which is quite late since you are only leaving people ~5-6 hours of flight between meals to sleep.
The meal options were chicken or pasta, which rate near the bottom of my plane food choices. I settled for chicken and was handed this tray. Based on the description on the foil wrapper, this was “Bourbon Street Chicken,” which was served with a side of cole slaw, a packaged roll, and a cake. Drinks were again offered so I took another Warsteiner.
The chicken and rice were actually flavorful (albeit slightly rubberychicken) and was a decent main for Y standards. The sole slaw was also decent, but the roll and desert were industrial.
After the meal, bottles of water were handed out along with coffee/tea service. David Bowie makes a cameo just for Numero_2 ;)
Onto the entertainment system. It turns out that my row and the row in front of me had an issue with system and despite rebooting the system 5 times, we were left with limited content. We had no movies available, only 15 episodes of TV and a couple of CDs in the audio section. Thankfully, the moving map was working. I can live without entertainment systems since I bring my own entertainment and prefer to sleep on red-eyes.
I didn’t check the galley for snack offerings, but the FAs did make a couple of rounds with water mid-flight. The bathroom was acceptable mid-flight, but could have been cleaner.
The mood-lighting came back on as we reached Scotland and food service rapidly commenced starting with a wet towelette.
The tray was fairly full for a second meal on TATL, blows the BA/AA offerings I saw early this year out of the water. Meats and cheese were accompanied by yogurt, a muffin, a hot roll, a packaged roll, and orange juice.
We arrived slightly early into DUS on a cloudy day and were quickly at the gate deplaning.
Heading towards immigration, saw this rare beauty, a X3 B738 with scimitar winglets in the retro Hapag-Lloyd livery.
With a 6-hour layover, we decided to take the train into downtown Düsseldorf using the S-Bahn to grab real food instead of just loitering around DUS, which is where I leave this series off.
Bonus: Spotting at DUS
Our AB A320 to FCO and our plane on stand at FCO.
NH B787 and EY A330.
Bulgarian charter airline Electra Airways’ sole A320.
KL Fokker 70, which has now been taken out of service.
BE Dash 8.
AY A319 in OW special livery.
Los Angeles - LAX
Düsseldorf - DUS
My first time on AB (and also my last time apparently). It was a decent experience given the situation the carrier was in at the time. Compared to the service I saw on TATLs operated ex-LAX on AA and BA, they appeared to be one of the stronger OW options to Europe from LAX with daily DUS service and seasonal TXL service. The crew was decent despite the impending loss of their jobs and the plane was comfortable. It’s sad to see AB go, but apparently they didn’t cut costs fast enough and lost the race to the bottom.
Cabin comfort: Clean A330 with a comfortable 2-4-2. The XL seats provide the comfort they promise and I didn’t find significant discomfort from the seat on this long TATL. Lavatories could be better.
Crew: Ground staff wasn’t very good at LAX, but the cabin crew seemed to be jollier. Cockpit gave all relevant info and the service on board was done professionally.
Meal and catering: The dinner was on the small side, but the main tasted okay. The breakfast was quite substantial compared to what BA and AA offered for pre-arrival meals. Lack of a snack with the aperitif is a noteworthy absentee.
Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature (sans in-flight magazine). The IFE was malfunctioning in my row and I could only use the moving map.
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I would suggest retraining that ground staff who rejected both a mobile BP AND a self- printed BP, just to let her know we are in the 21st century. Or maybe whoever is in charge of validating her work protocol needs to be nudged into retirement.
My wife and I recently chose the window and aisle seat of Finnair's A330s and we liked them (but then, I am a window seat addict). It had a thin entertainment box, BTW.
I hate it when the first meal is not served immediately on a long haul flight and reduces the time for sleeping.
Thanks for sharing what could well be the last FR on Air Berlin (and the bonus too) !
"Or maybe whoever is in charge of validating her work protocol needs to be nudged into retirement."
- Or whipped with your tape measure. The only reason why they would want the original is if they need physical copies for passenger records (OZ is one of those that likes to keep the paper BPs), but this BP was just scanned and handed back to me. There is no reason why any other form should be frowned upon.
"My wife and I recently chose the window and aisle seat of Finnair's A330s and we liked them (but then, I am a window seat addict). It had a thin entertainment box, BTW."
- If you look closely, 19A had no window, so that was a definite no go. My brother bought his ticket before me and by the time I looked at the seat map, there were no more pairs of window seats. I will always pick a window seat on a flight less than 4 hours, but anything longer would definitely lean towards an aisle to stretch my long legs.
Thanks for stopping by Marathon!
Great report as always! It looks like you had a pretty good flight with AB. Their Economy Class product doesn't sound too bad considering some others out there. That does look like a pretty substantial meal for the second meal on a TATL flight.
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Matthew, thank you for your comments.
It exceded my expectations. I was expecting a run-down cabin with a lack of catering. Other than the IFE issues, it was pretty normal flight and better than the average US TATL on AA/UA (DL is still better by far).
Indeed Christmas is a time for miracles! Welcome back Michael. It's been a looooong time.
"This report, a final hurrah for the carrier, will cover the flight from LAX to DUS on AB in their XL seats. "
- What a treat to share this FR from AB. A fitting tribute from one of the best contributors.
"This series covers a longish trip to Italy from last September with my brothers. "
- Family trips are always fun. They make great memories .
" Interestingly, it matches my EY Gold status to OW Sapphire status so it appears I get both OW Lounge and EY Lounge access."
- The best of both worlds. ;) That BP is definitely a collector's item. Now I regret not taking any AB flight out of SFO. :(
"When I entered the friendly agent welcomed me to the lounge and gave me a quick tour of the floor plan since it was my first time there."
- Beautiful gesture. Given the circumstances his attitude could have been worse.
"The food was slightly better quality than the *A and OW Lounges at LAX, but was much more limited in drink selection."
- Judging from your selection it looks pretty solid. Good thing that you got to eat before your flight just in case.
"She again refused getting sassier with her tone and insisted that I give her the boarding pass from the check-in counter."
- She won't be giving more attitude to AB pax now. What a silly thing to get all worked up.
".. a smiling male FA welcomed me in German and directed me to the right. "
- I didn't know you look German. :P
"The amenity kit is definitely a notable feature of AB since its contents are actually quite substantial in this age of endless cost-cutting (maybe the reason they lost the race to the bottom…)."
- It's more generous than my SQ PEY one.
" I settled for chicken and was handed this tray. "
- At least you got a proper dessert. Better than AA for sure.
"The tray was fairly full for a second meal on TATL, blows the BA/AA offerings I saw early this year out of the water."
- A very good Y breakfast indeed, but I still think that BA is better out of the West Coast with a hot main dish.
Too bad that the IFE system malfunctioned in your row. At least you did not mind and had other ways to pass the time.
Thank you for sharing this experience on AB. Glad you got to try them and safe travels for 2018.
"It's been a looooong time." ==> That's more "o"s than letters in your name^^ Thanks for your comments Adan!
"Now I regret not taking any AB flight out of SFO. :("
- Well, can't blame you seeing as ranked AB near the bottom of OW options to Europe. They exceeded my expectations and were actually better than AA. I thought they'd be more like SK with the low-cost flair to their Y product.
"Given the circumstances his attitude could have been worse."
- EY lounge agents were good, they also do table service when the lounge is not too crowded. They brought me newspapers and took drink orders. All of the food was Middle Eastern, but I guess they are basing that on their customer profile and the fact they have hot food puts them above the KE and domestic US carrier lounges at LAX.
"She won't be giving more attitude to AB pax now. What a silly thing to get all worked up." ==> Maybe she got a job at LH^^
"I didn't know you look German. :P" ==> Neither did I, but on the LX flight the FA made the same mistake twice as well.
"It's more generous than my SQ PEY one." ==> It's better than some J kits too^^
"At least you got a proper dessert. Better than AA for sure." ==> Food was overall better, but has some obvious items missing from a European carrier, there was no cheese on the tray^^ Also, with no snack served with apertif, there is a dearth of snacks.
"A very good Y breakfast indeed, but I still think that BA is better out of the West Coast with a hot main dish."
- Does BA still offer that? At least LHR-LAX only had one hot meal. Never done LAX-LHR for comparison purposes.
Thanks for stopping by Adan!
Hey, Michael! EY LAX lounge added and FR updated.
How nice to see that CO meatball on the homepage once again :-)
Also, weird (but cool) to see an Air Berlin report after their demise. I always wanted to try them, I guess that's never going to happen now. Almost got an award ticket on AB...good thing I didn't.
Speaking of award tickets, only 40K miles for Transatlantic Business class!?! Wow, definitely didn't know the OZ program was so valuable. Looking forward to that LX report.
It's good that AB still honored your EY status despite all the drama. The EY lounge looks good in general. EY tends to have their own lounges, even when they only have one flight. Now that they're not doing so well financially, though, that may change.
That whole situation with the mobile BP is just silly. Like you said, why even have mobile BPs if you can't use them. Oh well, I guess that's all moot now!
The cabin looks surprisingly good--really fresh and new. Wow, I've never heard a story about a seatmate de-pantsing on-board before! LMAO. That's definitely a Flight-Report, or even world, first! Like she seriously couldn't wait to go to the lav to change?! Awkward! Those Germans have no shame lol
Nice planespotting bonus! Welcome back!!!
Thanks for stopping by Kevin!
"I always wanted to try them, I guess that's never going to happen now."
- I kind of regret not bidding for their J seats in the auction now, but couln't rationalize the value in $800 for the upgrade. The Y was fine enough and served its purpose.
"Speaking of award tickets, only 40K miles for Transatlantic Business class!?!"
- Y is 25k, J is 40k, and F is 50k. Pretty good overall value for J and F especially since I'm west coast so those are longer TATL flights. Value on TPACs is not as good, even OZ F is 70k to ICN. I was looking for TK availability to maximize flight time, but no luck, could only get LX or LH.
"EY tends to have their own lounges, even when they only have one flight. Now that they're not doing so well financially, though, that may change." ==> They only send a B777-200LR to LAX, but I guess that is 48 premium passengers to take care of. Buffet was still better than KE's Lounge at LAX^^ SkyTeam needs some serious help there.
"Wow, I've never heard a story about a seatmate de-pantsing on-board before! LMAO. That's definitely a Flight-Report, or even world, first! Like she seriously couldn't wait to go to the lav to change?! Awkward! Those Germans have no shame lol"
- Seriously, why not do this in the bathroom before boarding or in the lavatory after boarding. She was just putting sweatpants on, not like it's anything to be embarrassed about given the clothing choice of most college aged passengers on this flight. I don't need your butt in my face twice in order for you to do this. She changed back to her jeans after we landed and before she deplaned. It's just ridiculous.
Great report for AB, such a pity thats your first and last time with them. Thanks for sharing in here!
Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for this FR on this now historical airline.
Indeed the level of service with an amenity kit almost as good as the one LX gives out in J and two full meals.
The problem with AB was some crews from the old LTU which AB purchased had very high salaries which were not sustainable and some above market leases on 737-800. But a real pitty to see them go.
Merci KL651, with less competition, LH will be able to start controlling prices as well. Bad for Germany and bad for travelers. I do not agree with the AB directors that their image is "tarnished" look at all the US carriers that went into bankruptcy and are now making millions with crappy products^^
Hey now....they make Billions with mediocre products...let's be fair here ^^
Sorry to short change Mr. Munoz a couple of decimal places ;)
Thanks for sharing this report Michael! At first I thought I was dazzled when I saw the Red CO Logo on the main page, but it was you actually! BTWあけましておめでとうございます^^
What a special moment being the 1st and last time on AB. It looks AB did a decent job on TATL route with amenity kit and 2 full meals provided. The amenity kit is better than mine on SQ Y! A bit sad to see they are discontinued and part of its fleets will be absorbed to LH, which means less competition lol
It was a good flight, not too much to complain about other than a weird seatmate and a broken IFE. AB's loss is definitely LH's gain since I probably wouldn't expect much difference in the LH/AB products on a LAX-Germany route.
Stunning review with beautiful photos ! I love the cabin and amenity kit. So sad that AirBerlin is no more.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my FR.
Long time no see!
Sorry to hear about the boarding experience.
“and amenity kit.“
“AB doesn’t have an in-flight magazine?“
- Probably spent that saved money on the amenity kits ;).
Nice spotting shots at DUS!
Thank you for sharing this historical FR with us, glad to see you on the site once again :).
Have a good one, see you.
Thanks for all your comments!
"Probably spent that saved money on the amenity kits ;)" ==> Or they converted them to toilet paper, who knows^^ But at least the amenity kit is nice and now a permanent collector's item.
"glad to see you on the site once again :)" ==> Not much travel in the foreseeable future, but i'll try to read more reports.
Thanks Michael and welcome back ! ^^
"Clean floor and no bulky entertainment boxes." -> It's a good start.
"The amenity kit is definitely a notable feature of AB since its contents are actually quite substantial in this age of endless cost-cutting (maybe the reason they lost the race to the bottom…)." -> We could say the same about SA, fortunately the government is still generous to maintain the airline in the race. ^^
"Despite starting boarding 15 minutes late, they were able to seat the entire plane in less than 25 minutes and as soon as the last passenger stepped on the plane, the door immediately slammed shut and the jetbridge retracted." -> Almost as efficient as boardings in Japan. :P
"Drinks were again offered so I took another Warsteiner." -> You should fly LH more often.
"David Bowie makes a cameo just for Numero_2 ;)" -> Few years back TG's IFE featured a documentary about David Bowie which was quite interesting.
"I can live without entertainment systems since I bring my own entertainment and prefer to sleep on red-eyes." -> Then try the UA flight HKG-GUM in standard Y and let's see how it goes. ;)
To be honest I expected AB long haul Y product to be worse than this. In fact it was a quite decent economy class despite the limited IFE.
Merci Clement, bonne année^^
"We could say the same about SA, fortunately the government is still generous to maintain the airline in the race. ^^" ==> Not much else the government can do. If SA goes, what kind of options are there internationally from southern Africa? ET and KQ are both strong, but not too many international destinations.
"You should fly LH more often." ==> A346 service to MUC ex-LAX attracts me^^ Maybe next business trip to Europe I will look for LH fares.
"Few years back TG's IFE featured a documentary about David Bowie which was quite interesting." == Now all you need is a Tina Turner documentary on NH^^
"Then try the UA flight HKG-GUM in standard Y and let's see how it goes. ;)" ==> Or HNL-GUM or anywhere in the US to HNL on domestic UA B772s that have BYO IFE with no power adapters^^ I will look for this report soon to read^^
"To be honest I expected AB long haul Y product to be worse than this."
- This was my impression to. I had it on the same level as SK or maybe worse based on the image they give, but it trurned out to be a surprisingly decent carrier. The intra-European leg was your standard LCC, but I did get an exit-row seat for free at the 24-hour window to departure. The Junker lounge at DUS was really bad, it was like a UA Club, but with lots of beer^^
Hi, great review and pictures. I am due to travel to JFK with Virgin Atlantic in March and it appears that we are on one of their branded ex Air Berlin A330-200 that Virgin have just leased.
From the pictures it looks like legroom should be ok but I am 6ft 6in (1.98m) tall and whilst it looked from the pictures that you had lots of space, I was wondering what height you are and roughly what you think the total pitch would have been.
Thanks in advance
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