Taking to the Air with Germany’s Second-Largest Airline

By Don Heimburger
Photos courtesy Air Berlin

Since 2013 when Air Berlin began flying from Chicago to Berlin, I’ve wanted to see what the service was like, because in Chicago at least, Air Berlin is a new airline. Those traveling to Germany from Chicago have a choice of several good airlines to choose from.

My flight from Chicago started with spending some time in the American Airlines lounge at O’Hare International Airport, admission to which is offered to Air Berlin business class passengers because the two airlines have a code share/partnership agreement.

Needless to say if you’ve flown in first or business class before, spending time before the flight in the lounge is a whole lot better than sitting in the noisy gate area. Plus, you have the convenience of close washrooms, complimentary coffee, snacks and soft drinks, a bar, and magazines and newspapers to read.

Air Berlin

Once on board, Air Berlin’s service begins immediately after you find your seat in Business Class (Air Berlin calls their first class section Business Class).

To begin my journey, I was offered a glass of champagne and a small dish of mixed nuts, and spent the time before take-off learning how my seat operated. I could leave it in the upright position, place it in a “relaxed” position or bring it all the way down for a completely flat bed if I wanted. I just had to make sure my legs were then propped up above the chair/bed as it automatically moved to a flat position.

Interior of Air Berlin

A small folding table was positioned in front of me to the right for meals, and I received large headphones to plug in for television and music listening, a black bag filled with earplugs, moisturizer, toothpaste and toothbrush, eye covers, slippers, and a pair of knit socks.

I later noticed that the economy passengers had found their seats in the rear of the plane, but the usual commotion of this completely passed me by, as only 20 Business Class seats were available, and the 18 passengers in this section on this trip were very quiet. The pilot announced it would be a smooth flight as large, comfy blankets were passed out if needed by the flight attendant, as were magazines (in both English and German), and we were on our way.

I was gratified that the three attendants in my section were very attentive in the beginning, because riding in a business class section can prompt questions if you’re not used to the gadgetry and the luxurious routine. Later, they understood how much attention I needed/wanted, and were helpful to not disturb me when I was reading, intent on watching a movie, or sleeping. They must teach this style of service in flight attendant school.

When dinner time came, I had to do a bit of studying, as there was a broad selection of appetizers, hot dishes, desserts, a cold meal available and snacks, as well as beverages. A printed menu with all the choices was given to me upon boarding.

I chose fresh seasonal salad with Italian dressing, and Rillette of Shrimp with Mango and Chili. For the main menu, I had the grilled chicken breast in a Tuscan tomato sauce and roasted vegetables and potatoes. Dessert? I chose the blueberry tart with vanilla sauce (this was very tasty).

The wine selection consisted of three whites and four reds, champagne, a long list of spirits, beer, soft drinks and hot beverages. I chose the white wine from Italy, 2012 Anselmi Canole Veneta Bianco, made from Garganega grapes.

For about four to five hours of the 7-hour flight the overhead lights were dimmed in the Business Class section so passengers could sleep, but a flight attendant was always “on duty” if needed.

After a restful sleep (I can never sleep on planes, but I actually did on this flight), I could smell coffee brewing, and along with several cups of that and orange juice, enjoyed a breakfast of fruit yogurt, fresh fruit plate, a croissant, butter, cream cheese and jam.

The selection of in-flight entertainment was enough to keep me from sleeping, had I not wanted to. There were numerous movies—first-run plus classic ones—plus a music channel, news, a channel on Air Berlin information, and games such as solitaire, sudoku, backgammon, brain teasers for kids, and others.

How about the flight itself? It was a very smooth flight, we arrived at the gate on time, and the experience was refreshing.

The airline recently refurbished its Business Class section on its long haul fleet and they now feature FullFlat seats with a massage function, USB port, personal entertainment system featuring a 15-inch monitor and gourmet culinary selections. And as a member of Oneworld, Air Berlin passengers can accrue and redeem miles on any Oneworld partner airline in addition to Air Berlin.

Air Berlin flies to three continents. The Air Berlin mileage award program is called topbonus. Air Berlin flies direct to Germany (Dusseldorf and Berlin) from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Fort Myers and Miami.

For more information, go to AirBerlin.com.

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