Many, many years ago, I caught a cheap flight from Berlin to Bangkok on a carrier called Air Berlin. It was a joyless experience. Back then, Air Berlin was a budget airline that offered the bare minimum to fly people internationally. You had an uncomfortable seat, no movies, and food only if you bought (or brought) it. The nine hours to Bangkok were hell, especially since this was before I discovered the wonders of Ambien.
But over the years, Air Berlin has grown up. They now fly new planes, offer more in-flight services (they’ve even introduced lie-flat business class seating), and have joined my favorite airline alliance, Oneworld. They’re no longer a cheap budget airline but a major and expanding player.
In the past year, I’ve heard good things from other travelers, so on my recent trip to Europe, I decided to fly Air Berlin. I wanted to see how much the airline has changed since I flew them all those years ago. Since I’d be flying through Berlin on this trip, it made sense.
My thoughts? Three out of four stars. I liked flying Air Berlin and prefer them to rival Lufthansa, who I flew to Africa in December. Lufthansa has harder seats, worse food, and an utterly awful movie selection.
Air Berlin has a fleet of 134 planes with an average age of five years, so the planes are pretty new and comfortable inside. They aren’t the old pieces of junk that many American carriers fly. (Looking at you, United, US Airways, and American!) The interiors are comfortable and clean, the seat cushions are thick, there’s ample legroom, and all seats have individual screens on which to watch a very robust movie selection. (Movie reviews: Cloud Atlas sucks, Life of Pi was wonderful, and Broken City was average.)
The food, while impressive in business class (quinoa salad, shrimp, and delicious beef!), was lacking in economy. Was it awful? No. But was it good? No. It’s exactly what you would expect from airline food. The chicken didn’t taste that good, the potatoes had an…interesting consistency, and the portions were a bit on the small side. It felt like getting a school lunch.
See? That doesn’t look too bad, does it? But it’s not amazing, either.
I was disappointed that there were no power plugs in economy, but USB ports were available, so I could still charge my phone.
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