TESTED BY Dan Booth
PLANE TYPE A330-200
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
SEAT PITCH 59-60 in/150-152.5cm
SEAT WIDTH 20 in/51cm
SEAT LENGTH 71.3 in/181cm
SEAT RECLINE Lie flat, 180 degrees
PRICE Online round-trip business class fares start at $6,641.
VERDICT: For transatlantic travel, Air Berlin may not be the first carrier that comes to mind. But for value and exceptional service, this business class experience was hard to beat.
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING: Arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s cavernous Terminal 8 – which we are reliably informed is twice the size of Madison Square Garden –it took me a minute to locate the correct corridor for Air Berlin. But once there I found a short line in the business class queue and hyper efficient check-in.
Soon I was on my way to JFK’s notoriously congested security lines, where there was little indication of efficiency, hyper or otherwise. Once past security, I headed to the American Airlines Admirals Club on Concourse B, which hosts customers from other oneworld airlines including Air Berlin. This club is spacious with lots of cubbies and power points for holing up and doing work. Once our flight was called, it was a short walk to the gate, and we boarded in plenty of time.
THE SEAT: The first thing I noticed about the lie-flat seats was how narrow they seemed; sure enough, they measure only 20 inches wide, a good inch or three narrower than other business class products I’ve flown. However once I was settled in, the seat itself was more than comfortable enough for the long-haul. The tray table was down with the menu and an inflight amenity kit carefully displayed; noise-canceling headphones were neatly wrapped and hung on a hook above it.
All business class seats on this Airbus A330-200 have direct aisle access. On the outside rows, this is achieved by staggering the pods, effectively making every seat both a window and an aisle. This made for a good deal of real estate between me and the window. As I stowed my belongings, I noted that while the overhead bin was roomy, the designers had not used all that extra space to build in more nooks and crannies at seat level.
THE FLIGHT: As we prepared for take-off, the friendly cabin attendant came round with a welcoming beverage complemented by a small bowl of nuts. Almost immediately after we were airborne, the crew started efficiently taking meal orders. Good thing I’d already had a chance to look over the menu selections – which included beef and fish – and I chose baked chicken with a vegetable medley in a tangy citrus sauce. When the food arrived I found everything well presented and quite tasty.
After the ever-attentive cabin crew cleared the dinner service, I watched one of the first-run films on the extensive inflight entertainment system. I appreciated the ease of navigating the screen thanks to a button on the remote which controlled the cursor.
When it came time to stretch out for bed, I noticed a rather dire warning on the seat control, reminding passengers to lift their legs so they won’t get caught between the seat and the ottoman. This ottoman sits in the foot well and when the seat is fully extended becomes the last section of the nearly-six-foot bed. Presumably when an irresistible force (like the reclining seat) meets an immovable object (like the ottoman), hurt shins can result. So heed the warning.
Despite the narrowness of the seat, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the lie-flat bed was. A generous pillow and a blanket were the only bedding items provided, but the cabin was quite warm – a touch too warm, according to some fellow travelers. Since I’d dressed in layers, I slept through nicely until I was awakened for a light breakfast prior to arrival.
ARRIVAL: Our flight arrived on time and taxied to a remote stand where we boarded large buses that carried us to the terminal. Luggage retrieval took a bit longer than expected, but immigration lines were swift and we were soon on our way to downtown Berlin.