Can you comfortably watch that screen? Neither can we.
Annoying But Tolerable: Chances are, unless you’re flying business (we weren’t) or are on one of the six new Airbus A330 planes equipped with new seats and individual televisions (we weren’t), it’s all community TV, baby. So, if you’re far away from said shared screen in, say, window seat 23K looking to the tiny screen in center aisle row 17, serious squinting may be in your future. And hopefully no one’s big head will block your access even more. Sharing is common on the 2-4-2 configuration of the aircraft used for long-haul flights and will be until the system-wide overhaul is complete. That’s supposed to be this summer, but we're doubtful seeing as less than a half-dozen of the planes have made the switch since November 2011.
Perhaps this explains why Air Berlin puts out a boatload of magazines (German-language) and newspapers for preboarding passengers—their programming right now is balls. On our outbound flight, the “entertainment” consisted of ancient Cheers and Friends episodes, a random cartoon, and movies Happy Feet, and We Bought a Zoo. If there was more, we missed it in favor of popping a rogue Ambien to quickly remove us from the misery.Lesson: bring more non-electric reading material than you need (there aren't any power outletsyet).
Saving Graces: Thanks to Air Berlin's new membership within oneworld alliance, members can earn miles on the airline. Those with elite status can use the lounge at the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport opening June 3rd [Update: the opening may be delayed until August!]. Then there is the efficiency factor when it comes to check-in; smartphone users can log on to mobile.airberlin.com and boarding passes will be sent directly to their phones.
Just Unacceptable: The bootleg charges on Air Berlin are boggling. Passengers have to shell out between 10 to 60 euros each leg to pre-assign a seat, depending on length of flight and if you want more leg room or an exit row. That means adding at least $40 more to tickets already being sold for a hefty $1,150 for a June JFK-to-Berlin jaunt.
Another nickel-and-dime issue? Charging long-haul customers 3 euros for earbuds (yes, for that awful programming). And, finally, requesting that passengers shell out 5 euros each for any other alcoholic beverage ordered outside the single cup of wine or beer given at dinner. Even when our flight was delayed almost 5 hours, you’d think they’d go easy on the misc charges. But nein. Didn’t happen. And that about sums up our Air Berlin experience—what we were expecting, just didn’t happen.
How Air Berlin's new A330s will look.
Disclosure: Flights were provided to Chanize as a guest of Air Berlin. Quite obviously, all opinions expressed are her own.
[Photos: Air Berlin, Chanize Thorpe]