airberlin’s new nonstop to Berlin a wonderful flight

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Photos courtesy of airberlin
By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer
It all began on a typical Friday with
dinner and a movie. Granted the fish was exceptional and the wines were
French and Italian. C’est la vie.
And the movie turned out to be an
amusing romantic romp. So, I had no problem falling asleep after another
busy week in L.A. But things started to get a little strange when I
awoke to a breakfast of cold cuts and cheese. And the pilot announced
that we were beginning our final descent into Berlin.
I had slept
soundly across the United States, Canada, Iceland and Greenland. Now
6,000 miles later I was dropping through into Europe after crossing nine
time zones.
But I felt fresh and ready to hit the ground to tour Germany’s fabled capital.
Friends
and family think I’m crazy when I tell them that I’m going to Europe
for a week. They dread the thought of an 11-hour flight. Then I remind
them of a recent flight to Norfolk, Virginia, which took nearly as long
with connecting flights through Dallas/Fort Worth from Los Angeles.
And I
dread the thought of that transcontinental trek with its cramped cabins
and poor service. In fact, I swore I’d never fly that carrier again.

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I’ve
found that foreign carriers deliver a superior experience when it comes
to long-distance travel. Quantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air
New Zealand — they all do a wonderful job of getting you across the
ocean to a fabled destination.
So it piqued my interest when I found
out that airberlin was starting a new nonstop service from Los Angeles
to Berlin. I’ve always wanted to see Germany’s leading city, but my
travels had always taken me to see friends and relatives in southern
Germany.
So when I was asked to join the inaugural flight, I didn’t hesitate.
Most
Americans have never heard of airberlin. But it is Germany’s second
largest airline, carrying more than 30 million passengers.
Interesting
enough, the airline was founded in 1978 by a former Pan Am pilot as a
U.S. airline in Oregon because of West Berlin’s special legal status
during the Cold War. At the time, air service to the beleaguered city
was restricted to the Allied nations of World War II. Flight crews
through the Allied air corridors had to be citizens of the United
States, United Kingdom, France or the Soviet Union — which explains
airberlin’s strange origin.
In 1990, Germany’s reunification led to
the end of Berlin’s special status German investors acquired a majority
stake in the company.

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Through acquisitions and takeovers, airberlin has become a major airline.
“Los
Angeles is a major route expansion for our Berlin hub. Attractive
destinations such as Los Angeles make our hub an engine of growth for
airberlin, for tourism and the economy,” said CEO Hartmut Mehdorn. “With
this offer, we particularly want to attract connecting passengers from
our German and European route network.”
So it was that I found myself
driving to LAX for my European adventure. As usual, I quickly worked my
way through the friendly ticket counter and the usual security
checkpoints.
But I was a little surprised to arrive at the gate in
the Tom Bradley International Terminal to find a party going on.
Balloons festooned the gate, while a grand cake with bottles of
sparkling cider waited to greet the first airberlin flight arriving from
Berlin.
Also waiting were L.A. councilman Tom LaBonge, who kidded
about where to find the best currywurst in Berlin, and Wolfgang Drautz,
the German consul general in Los Angeles.
After the large Airbus 330
landed, airport fire trucks welcomed it by forming arches of cascading
water as it taxied to the gate. City officials greeted the newest
airline flying out of the City of Angels.
Soon we were ushered aboard
the colorful red and white Airbus 330, strapping in for our
transcontinental journey. Fortunately, the seats were comfortable for
the long trip.
I highly recommend noise-canceling headphones. They
block the hum of the engines while you’re sleeping and the movie
soundtracks are much crisper and clearer. Besides, the cost of these
headsets have fallen from hundreds of dollars to as low as $25. Whatever
you buy, they’re worth it.
Our plane came equipped with a great individual entertainment system.
There
were literally more than 200 hours of entertainment available: current
movies, TV series, games and audio books. That’s on top of a wide range
of music, all at your command.
Dinner really was exceptional as I
noted in the beginning of the story. How European airlines manage top
restaurant meals has always been a mystery to me.

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Passengers in
economy have a choice of two hot selections. I was fortunate enough to
have been upgraded to business, where we were served multi-course menus. We had a choice of
several main courses as well as six wines.
The service was great,
especially in business where they add all the frills such as linen
tablecloths. The wide leather seats also offer in-seat power for your
laptops, which is great for businessmen such as my seatmate Steven
Rivera, a program manager for Synchronous Aerospace in Santa Ana.
“I
usually fly Air France to Italy several times a year,” Steve explained.
“But I’ve never explored Berlin so I thought this would be an
interesting alternative.”
The Orange County businessman later gave airberlin high marks for its service.
The
German airline offers the nonstop service to Berlin on Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays. That means Los Angeles travelers arrive
midmorning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Flights one way from
Los Angeles to Berlin average $500. This jumps to nearly $1,000 one-way
coming back during the busy summer season. If you can wait until
September, you can book a round-trip for a little more than $1,000.
Either
way, be sure to sign up for airberlin’s topbonus frequent flyer
program. It’s a part of the oneworld alliance so you can use the miles
on a number of partner airlines.
For more information, visit airberlin’s website at www.airberlin.com or call 866-266-5588.

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