WELCOME TO MY 34th TRIP REPORT
will cover my trip on Air Berlin, in Business Class, between Berlin and Dubai.
B A C K G R O U N D
As a continuation to the planning of my Italy trip back in March, I had sorted my travels out with Garuda from Dubai, Meridiana fly to Italy, and a mix between Alitalia and Air France from Italy to Berlin.
Of course, the European flights out of Italy were not booked until I had finalized my plans to take up Air Berlin, which more or less offered the best premium fare out of anything out there. I had initially earmarked an Air Berlin flight post-Oneworld, but I ran out of choice when considering price, and my 'no-EK' policy for this trip, so I had to improvise. I definitely wanted to sample something new and European, and the only other option that was interesting to me, was a Condor flight to Bahrain; but I wasn't too sure I wanted Condor on a 757. Well to be honest, I really had my heart set on Air Berlin, so no Condor, no nothing!
the booking process was as hassle-free as your typical expectation of an airline website, though I did find it to be a little too cluttered and very LCC-ish. I was also able to select my seats at the time of booking, which was pleasant at first, only to later discover that my selected window-seat was not available at check-in (and no other window seat for that matter).
Upon purchase, the usual e-ticket was sent by email, which included the all the pertinent details and also a confirmation that resembled more of an invoice number rather your typical PNR; I suppose Air Berlin uses some unique system. In any case, I was all set for my first Air Berlin experience!
Approximately one week before my flight, I had received an email from Air Berlin, with a notification of a change in my departure time from 21:15 to 21:25 citing that 'that due to urgent operational requirements a flight time change could not be avoided.' This is quite precise, and I wouldn’t think many airlines would go all out for only a ten minute re-time. Nevertheless, with such a piece of information, it safer to know that I had an extra 10 minutes of transit time at Tegel, just in case it really did make that extra bit of difference. So now, it was time to move on.
O R I G I N
Arriving Berlin at 2:50pm on AF2034, I deplaned and headed straight to the baggage claim to reclaim my suitcase. I had approximately six hours and 40 minutes to kill so I was not in any kind of hurry.
My first impressions of the airport had conformed to what one would normally think of a small US domestic-type of airport; intimate with a touch of non-aviation charm. I only noticed a handful of small baggage claim belts, which were located almost immediately after the aerobridges.
As I had arrived into Terminal E, I tried checking in for my flight through the next available counter I had found at the departures area, but was told that I had to go to the nearby Terminal C. From what I had gathered, there was a centralized landside area in between all the terminal buildings, which housed an array of shops and outlets. Following the signs from Terminals E to C, I immediately found myself in this central area, and I thought to stay back and explore before moving on.
Landside at Tegel
The more I got acquainted with my surroundings, the more unique I found Tegel to be; in fact this airport is like no other I have been to. In terms of history, I could feel the icy cold vibes of World War I, II
, and the Cold War seeping from every corner, as almost everything seemed untouched. Yet in the midst of all this pre-essence, you will also find random patches of modern architecture that would instantly take you back to now. And due to the obvious space limitations, this airport has done away with typical traditions, and instead you will find airline lounges like the British Airways Terrace located landside; simply because there almost is no typical airside!
I am not sure about slot constrains on the apron, gates, runway, and check-in counters at Tegel, but if landside areas needed slot management, Tegel is the ideal experiment! From this perspective, I could definitely see the need for Brandenburg International Airport, as things have gotten a little too claustrophobic around here. But kudos to Berlin Airports for seriously perfecting the concept of efficient use of space, as you will find everything at Tegel, as you would at Rhein-Main Flughafen!
On my way to Terminal C
The way to Terminal C seemed a little complicated at first, as I had to leave Terminal E and go through the landside area, exit the building, and head through a tunnel that connects to the curbside of Terminal C, before arriving at the entrance. Odd? Very, but it works!
Into the tunnel
Arriving at Terminal C
Terminal C curbside
Terminal C houses nothing but a basic offering embedded within an eerie-type of aura. The hued and rather dim lighting did not help, and neither did the warehouse-themed ceiling-less building that was really aging to the bones. But again, in the midst of all this, things were still neat and orderly. Apart from an array of Air Berlin check-in counters and ticketing desks, this building also houses a café cum restaurant, a few shops here and there, and an arrival meet & greet on the other side.
Inside Terminal C
The display screens on the Air Berlin check-in counters indicated that check-in is possible for 'all destinations,' so I approached a ground agent close by to enquire whether I could do an early check-in for my flight to Dubai. She responded in German, but judging by the tone of her voice, and the fact that she was pointing to a location across the other side of the building, I figured that this was not possible.
Apparently -and as I discovered from another agent at the ticketing desk- Air Berlin offers a 'night check-in' service, whereby passengers can check-in for international flights the night prior to their flight, check baggage, and receive boarding passes. But seemingly, this check-in area -located in the far end of the building at counters 60-73- is also used for the Dubai flight, and presumably any other flight that departs in the evening. When I had reached the end of the hallway, the area was completely deserted around counters 60-73, so all I could do was wait.
Night check-in hallway
Air Berlin Business Class check-in counters
The check-in counters for my flight were scheduled to open 3 hours before departure. As such, at around 6pm, a crowd began to form, while ground staff marched out of the back offices and commenced the set-up up for check-in.
In line for check-in
I later realized that the queue I had joined was either for non-Dubai night check-ins or for Economy Class passengers bound for Dubai. So I repositioned myself, and headed towards the free Business Class counter, which was the only one decked out in Air Berlin branding.
"Good evening sir, are you flying in Business Class?"
"Yes I am"
"It would be my pleasure to help you. Where are you flying to?"
"Certainly. May I see your passport and ticket please?"
"Sure. Here you go"
"Thank you. Do you have any luggage to check?"
"Yes I do. This one"
"Alright. But please bare with me a few moments as I am having a slight problem with the luggage tag printer"
"Sure. Take your time"
It seemed that the problems with the luggage tag reader continued for longer than anticipated, so the agent kindly asked me to proceed to another adjacent counter, where her colleague was already waiting to assist me.
"Good evening sir, on behalf of my colleagues I would like to apologize for this minor issue. But I will be more than happy to assist you here"
"Traveling to Dubai?"
"Yes. I had requested a window seat, can you please confirm if my request is in the system?"
"I will check for you"
"Unfortunately I have you seated in 2D
which is a middle seat"
"Is it possible to change that to a window seat?"
"It seems that all the window seats are taken, as the flight tonight is overbooked"
Within 10 minutes I was checked in, my bag checked to Dubai, and my boarding pass issued. A true eye-opener was a the big fat 'Operated by LTU International' print on the bottom right corner which really took me by surprise. Admittedly, I had no recollection of Air Berlin's acquisition of LTU, but I later learned that this was the case because the aircraft and the crew were still under the LTU business. Needless to say, LTU was another one of those airlines that I wanted to try, especially when they operated that weird weekly 767 flight to Daytona Beach back in the day!
My boarding pass to Dubai
Being at Air Berlin's home base, one would expect that the lounge product would be under the company's own brand, but this was not the case here. In fact, the British Airways Terrace is used for Air Berlin's Business Class passengers. This lounge is located landside, and to get to it I had to exit the terminal building, go back through the tunnel and into that central landside area. As it was quite the walk, it was best to stay in the lounge until it was close to boarding time.
The British Airways Terrace
I was welcomed inside the lounge by a friendly agent where my immediate surroundings were as familiar as any typical British Airways Terrace that I am aware of. The traditional fountain 'terrace' area dominated the main portion of the lounge and was surrounded by independent seating areas -some overlooking a window view and others not- and a buffet spread that included your basic offering of fruit, cake, chips, crackers, boiled egg, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
The lounge was quite busy at the time I was there, and this was due to a departing British Airways flight, which was followed by a Finnair departure in addition to Air Berlin's operation to Dubai. However, the ambience was quite intimate yet unobtrusive, which I found to be quite pleasant.
Inside the British Airways Terrace
Food & Beverage offering
The food and beverage offering wasn’t too inspiring and I thought it would be better to wait until supper on the flight. So by 7:50pm, I left the lounge and hiked my way back to Terminal C, and to Gate C67.
A couple of snaps along the way
Back at Terminal C, the way to the airside area is located through an entrance that is directly opposite to the night check-in area. My documents were checked by an officer before proceeding to a very small security screening area; I think there may have been up to four security checkpoints.
Once through security, the pathway leads along a U-turn direction before arriving at the immigration counters, where my passport was stamped quickly and without a hassle. By 8:35pm, I was airside.
A small duty free section right after immigration
This is more or less the airside facility at Tegel's Terminal C
There was a lot of activity around Gate C67, and it was clear that the flight to Dubai was going to be a full one. It was also interesting to observe the traffic profile on Air Berlin as it was evident that Air Berlin's market is not only the leisure type, but most that originated in Europe and/or Germany; I was definitely the only Arab onboard tonight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we are a rarity around here, though you never know. Nevertheless, the excitement of holiday-mode was felt everywhere, and everyone seemed anxious to get on board!
My aircraft is to the right of this picture
At around 8:30pm, everyone formed a queue by the gate, in anticipation for boarding. However it took another 15 minutes before boarding had officially commenced. There was no announcement to this effect, and it was an all-call for everyone at anytime.
In queue for boarding
At the podium, my documents were checked, and my boarding card was scanned and ripped before the agent handed me back the stub. One enjoyable aspect at Tegel -at least here in Terminal C- is the walk-up boarding process which eliminates the hop-on hop-off bus ride to the aircraft. Why use a bus when you can walk and enjoy the scenery?
Of course, to ensure utmost security, the pathway to the aircraft was 'barricaded' with yellow tape over cones such that your only true direction is towards the steps leading to the A330-200 bound for Dubai.
At the aircraft
At Door 2L, I was greeted by what -at first- seemed like a ground agent. It must have been the visible lanyard with his ID
card around his neck that gave it away, along with the rather laid-back uniform. But in reality he was the purser for the flight tonight, and next to him was a small stand nicely set-up with a basket of boiled candy. A very unique touch I must add!
"Welcome on board sir. Ah I see, you are in Business Class, which is right this way"
By 9pm I was on board.
Fly Roni. Aviation Journeys. Photos. Videos.