When I was still in the planning stages of booking this trip, I found myself with two options for the flight from San Francisco to Dusseldorf: AirBerlin Business Class on the A330 or American Airlines’ 767. I posed this question on both Facebook and Twitter and got a lot of useful feedback. AirBerlin’s Business Class seat was a concern for some, while others thought it was better than American’s. The food and service were deemed better on AirBerlin and since I’m not a 6’2 giant and care more about food than anything else on the flight, I went with AirBerlin. Besides, anything was better than coach and if all else sucked, I could just pop a couple of extra strength Tylenols and doze off for the entire flight.
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It was interesting how much of other people’s feedback turned out to be true, while my own assumptions were totally wrong. For starters, I thought any lie-flat business class seat would be totally comfortable since I’m of average height and weight. Wrong. I also thought the service would be cold and indifferent (maybe a bit stereotypical on my part) – wrong again. I definitely didn’t expect AirBerlin’s food in business class to be good at all and I was pleasantly surprised.
AirBerlin Business Class Seat
I was seated in 6A, a window seat in the very last row of the business class cabin. The tray table was out and resting on it were the amenity kit and in-flight menu. To the right hung a pair of noise cancelling headphones, while the seat itself had a pillow and blanket. A bottle of water was also placed into the compartment next to the armrest.
Underneath the footrest was a small storage area where you could place a bag (probably not a backpack though) or a laptop case. I managed to shove both my bag and laptop in there and both fell out during takeoff. It would definitely help if there was a door keeping items contained in that space.
I don’t take up much space but it was hard getting comfortable in this seat. For starters, it was very narrow and I had a hard time finding a place to put my elbows – the elbow rest was wobbly and hard as a rock, and drawing them in wasn’t easy either because the seat was so narrow. Even the legroom left something to be desired and when the seat was fully flat, it was very bumpy and the headrest wasn’t properly aligned with the rest of the bed, meaning you can’t sleep with a pillow without sustaining a neck injury. It was difficult to photograph the seat but I did it while totally invading the space of the passenger sitting in front of me.
The seat controls, located near the armrest, were incredibly noisy. Also, simply pressing on the lie-flat button didn’t actually lead the seat to go all the way flat. I had to use the additional controls to get it to go as flat as possible and even then it didn’t work all the way.
There was a large gap between the seat and the left wall – they could have filled that gap by making the seat wider, but what the hell do I know about airplane seat design? Anyway, if you’re going to fly AirBerlin business class and want privacy, I recommend you get Seat 6A or 1A. All the other window and middle seats have zero privacy but have direct aisle access. In fact, seat 1A is so private, it has a curtain that goes almost all the way around.
Shortly after sitting down, the flight attendant came around to introduce herself and ask which language each passenger preferred. I spent most of my childhood in Germany but my language skills were a bit rusty since, for the most part, my German is limited to gossiping with my older sister about our younger siblings so that neither of them can understand us. For the most part, things went smoothly in the communication department, though God knows how many grammatical errors the very nice flight attendant smiled through.
She did inform me that my seat was “the worst in the cabin” in terms of noise because it was close to the economy class cabin and the announcement speaker. She offered to let me switch to a middle seat with direct aisle access, but I declined. The middle aisle seats have zero privacy and after seeing this photo of the foot cubies, I decided I definitely didn’t want to sleep that close to a complete stranger unless a dowry was paid and a religious authority blessed the union. About 10 minutes before takeoff, the FA returned and told me if I wanted to switch seats later I could.
Despite the shortcomings of the AirBerlin business class seat, I managed to sleep for about 5 hours, though it wasn’t the most comfortable sleep I’ve gotten in a business class cabin. #firstworldproblems
AirBerlin Business Class Meals
The menu was laid out on the tray tables when I got to my seat, so I began perusing it right away. The menu choices all looked pretty good, though I ultimately ended up skipping breakfast since I was too full from dinner. I also passed on the ramekin of nuts after remembering how eating them always turns my face into sandpaper.
The food was surprisingly good though. My only unpleasant association with the meal service was how the cabin reeked of onions when the FA came to take our orders. Let the record note, I absolutely despise the smell of onions when they are either being chopped or cooked.
I ordered the marinated scallops for the appetizer, which was really more of a main course because it came with a side salad and the flight attendant insisted I have a giant pretzel roll to go with it. For the main course, I had the mahi-mahi fillet with sauce vierge, which tasted much better than it looked. It was all very nicely presented and there was way too much bread – more than I could eat, but I always feel bad about letting food go to waste, so I always try to finish it all.
For dessert, I had the delicious passion fruit mousse cake and a latte (or maybe it was a cappuccino). This was a really big meal and pretty much all I could eat for the remainder of the flight. AirBerlin does offer an on-demand snack menu for business class passengers, which consists of sweets, salted pretzels, peanuts, and potato chips. I didn’t have anything else, but I imagine if you need something to tide you over between dinner and breakfast, the snack menu is perfectly sufficient.
AirBerlin Business Class IFE
The IFE didn’t start working until about two and half hours into the flight. The entertainment selection was decent, though it featured some outdated movies (Life of Pie, The Devil Wears Prada, etc.). There were still tons of great new movies, tv shows, and games to keep passengers occupied.
I ended up watching Joy with Jennifer Lawrence which was so good I watched it a second time. My favorite line from the movie (spoken by Robert De Niro’s character): “You’re like a gas leak – we don’t see you, we don’t smell you, but you’re killing us all.”
My one issue with the IFE was the remote control. The touchscreen part of the remote was tough to operate, especially when it came to rewinding and fast forwarding movies.
AirBerlin Business Class Amenity Kit
The AirBerlin business class amenity kit was issued by Wunderkind and contained the basics: Toothbrush, paste, face cream, lip balm, earplugs, socks, shades, and a coupon towards the purchase of Wunderkind products. I don’t need much out of an amenity kit other than a toothbrush and preferably a pair of socks, so this was perfectly sufficient. The bag was a bit on the cheap side, though.
The business class bathroom, which was horrendously maintained, was also stocked with Wunderkind products. Either the passengers before me were total pigs or this bathroom wasn’t cleaned after the previous flight. It really seemed like the mess had been stewing for a while.
AirBerlin Business Class Service
The service on this flight was very polished and the FA’s seemed to be thinking ahead constantly to what passengers might need. For example, at one point I woke up and headed for the bathroom with my amenity kit to freshen up. The bathroom was occupied and there was one other person waiting, so I headed back to my seat. Seconds later, the FA, who had spotted me in the galley, followed me to my seat and placed a fresh hot towel and a glass of orange juice before me.
At the beginning of the flight, the FA came around offering post-departure drinks about 15 minutes before takeoff. I pointed to the bottle left by the seat and said that was fine. She offered to bring me a glass, but I turned it down. Right after dinner, when the cabin was dimmed, she walked around, spotted my half empty bottle, and promptly replaced it with a new one.
Throughout the flight, she was incredibly warm and attentive to everyone. I declined breakfast, since I was still full from dinner. The FA came around a while later to ask if maybe I’d like some fruit or cereal, but I really couldn’t stomach any more food, so I passed. Shortly before the breakfast service wrapped up, she stopped by my seat again and asked, “Now would you like a glass of orange juice?” She was so nice and I felt bad about turning her down constantly, so I took her up on it.
Near the end of the flight, the FA’s came around to ask each passenger whether they enjoyed their flight. She also passed out heart-shaped chocolates and made another round, confirming each person’s destination and letting them know which gate the connecting flight was out of. Since I had such a tight connection, I appreciated knowing this before bolting out the door.
Overall, I had a pleasant experience flying AirBerlin business class to Dusseldorf. The seat may not have been the most comfortable, but it went (mostly) flat, I got to sleep, and enjoy some good food and service. If I had a choice between AirBerlin and American Airlines business class, I would probably want to try the latter out to see how it compares. However, if you’re looking for a flatbed seat to cross the Atlantic without amassing fuel surcharges, I think AirBerlin business class is a perfectly good product.
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