As I mentioned in an earlier post, I redeemed 50,000 American Airlines miles to fly one-way from the U.S. to Europe in business class. The main flight of the itinerary was this one, New York to Düsseldorf on AirBerlin, which allowed me to use my American Airlines miles without any fuel surcharges and be guaranteed a flat-bed seat. When I think of flying a German airline, I usually think about flying Lufthansa through Frankfurt, so flying this was an interesting experience.
AirBerlin operates out of JFK Terminal 8, which is mainly housed by American Airlines. Check-in opens 4 hours before departure for each flight. The line was fairly short and my interaction with the agent took all of 30 seconds. One thing that’s interesting is that AirBerlin puts multiple flights on one boarding card, so I only had 1 pass for my 2 flights.
One of the downsides of flying international carriers is that you don’t get Pre-Check on your boarding pass. There is a priority security line, but it can get long.
It’s worth noting that most passengers flying AirBerlin business class (or who have OneWorld Sapphire status) will have access to the American Airlines Admirals Club. You’ll get a couple of drink coupons for premium drinks (like nicer beers, wines, or cocktails), but the food is rather lacking. You’ll get some carrots, hummus, chips, and other snack options, but no substantial meal in the lounge. This can be an issue considering the Dusseldorf flight leaves at 11:45pm on many nights, right after prime dinner time hours. Otherwise, there are showers in the Admirals Club, which may be useful to people who’d like one before an overnight flight.
I have Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, so as a oneworld Emerald traveling internationally, I get access to the Flagship Lounge which has more substantial food. I was able to make a full meal out of the lounge offerings (not to mention I ran into an old friend and her family on their way to the Maldives, which was quite fun!). You can read a more full review of the Flagship Lounge here.
The Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge close at 11:15pm, which is right around boarding time for the 11:45pm flight, although the lounge attendants start packing up food and drink around 11pm. I headed down the concourse and boarding started around 11:15pm.
New York (JFK) – Düsseldorf (DUS)
Monday August 3, 2015
11:45pm – 1:00pm (+1): 6 hours, 15 minutes
Airbus A330-200, Seat 3A (Business Class)
I boarded and found most of the cabin to be empty – in fact, I don’t recall anybody sitting in the center sections of seats. I briefly thought about commandeering one of the sets of 2 seats in the middle (sometimes referred to as the honeymoon seats) but decided to stick with my isolated window seat.
If you are a single traveler, I would definitely try for an “A” or “K” seat, since those are next to the window and isolated from the aisle. If you are traveling as a couple, I’d try for “EF” seats, since those are next to each other and also separated from the aisle.
I took my seat at 3A, where the tray table was pulled down to show the menu and amenity kit. There was also a pair of headphones on the tray table hook.
While I was exploring the seat, a flight attendant came by to offer beverages and a hot towel.
The seat itself is rather narrow, which is why I was glad to have seat 3A, since I’d rather be confined up against the window rather than next to the aisle with foot traffic. There is also a startling lack of storage space. You can store some stuff underneath the small ottoman, but there isn’t space to put even small stuff like the menu or the headphones when you’re not using them.
Seat controls are pretty intuitive, including a pretty comfortable massage feature. There is a bright light that can be turned on/off, as well as a more focused LED reading light.
The remote for the IFE was rather simple but easy to use. There was an extensive collection of movies, TV shows, and other videos to choose from. I ended up watching an episode of Top Gear once in the air.
Even though I had eaten a bit in the Flagship Lounge, I perused the menu since I was still a bit hungry. I ordered on the ground, opting for the tortellini because pasta dishes tend to make me fall asleep easily on flights, and skipped several courses, asking to be served as quickly as possible.
We were in the air shortly past midnight. Before my meal, I had a glass of water, glass of white wine, and some cold nuts. I specifically asked to only have the main course because I wanted to eat and quickly sleep, but still was served after passengers who had also ordered the salad course. Considering this was a fairly empty business class, I was a bit disappointed. Because this is a late and rather short flight, there should be some sort of express meal option. Granted, I had some food in the Flagship Lounge, but unless you have Emerald status, you won’t have a meal in the lounge beforehand. While I only ordered the main course, the flight attendant offered dessert as she was picking up my plate, so I had a couple of bites of that before heading to sleep about an hour into the flight.
There’s no bedding offered on AirBerlin, but the pillow is of a good size and the blanket was comfortable. I was able to fall asleep easily and woke up on my own about 4.5 hours later, as we were passing over Amsterdam. Despite me waking up rather late, the flight attendant had a tray of breakfast for me ready to go, so I had a couple of bites of that.
Before landing, the flight attendants came around and passed some parting gifts, including a heart-shaped chocolate, airberlin baggage tag, and an topbonus enrollment card (which I found hilarious because I’m already an Emerald on a partner airline if they bothered to read the manifest). And for what it’s worth, I was offered the same chocolate when deboarding my later Düsseldorf-Barcelona flight in Economy, so it seems to be an AirBerlin thing throughout.
All in all, I had a good flight. The only issue I had was the lack of storage space within the seat, as well as a lack of express meal option for a late overnight flight. The flight crew was very pleasant and the bed was comfortable. Being able to use American Airlines miles to Europe without fuel surcharges is always a plus. Perhaps the best part of this itinerary though happened to be the ease of transit at Düsseldorf airport, which I’ll write about in the next segment.