Fly Door to Door from the U.S. to Düsseldorf on airberlin
Skip the hassle of long lines, tedious and time-consuming connections and multiple security checks by flying direct on airberlin to Germany’s most conveniently located city.
By Ginger Warder
Although I live in St. Petersburg, Florida—close to the Tampa International Airport—I recently drove 140 miles south to Fort Myers to catch a non-stop flight to Germany on airberlin. The drive was well worth it to avoid the long security lines at the Tampa airport and a connecting flight at Miami—always a hassle—while the Fort Myers airport is a breeze to get to, park at and navigate around.
I had been invited to review the airline’s business class service to Düsseldorf and visit the airline headquarters in Berlin, with rare opportunities to meet the mayor of Düsseldorf, get a behind-the-scenes look at airport operations and meet the man behind airberlin’s growth, CEO Stefan Pichler. Who could resist that invitation?
Private Pods in the Plane
Shakespeare once said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and that’s the best analogy I can think of for airberlin’s business class service to Germany.
It looks like first class with 19 spacious private “pods”—all with direct aisle access— that contain a personal entertainment system and a seat that reclines to a fully flat position.
It tastes like first class beginning with the drinks and snacks offered in the airberlin airport lounge, continuing with a champagne welcome and snacks, drinks and hot meals throughout the flight.
Add to that stellar service from an über-accommodating flight crew and it was a first-class experience by another name. Note that the airline is still in the process of retrofitting their fleet with satellite Wi-Fi—slated to be completed by the end of 2016— so not all flights will have service.
Nonstop Boston and SF to Germany
With the addition of nonstop flights from Boston and San Francisco, airberlin now offers 41 flights a week to the U.S. from Dusseldorf
Düsseldorf may be Germany’s best-kept secret destination, but with easy air access, it won’t remain off the radar for long. Just an hour’s flight from Berlin, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and London, it’s the perfect jumping off point for exploring Europe.
Although Düsseldorf lost several historic buildings in the bombings of WW II, the Alstadt (old town) is charming with its narrow streets packed with café after café, breweries, restaurants and eclectic shops.
In fact, one of the streets is known as “the longest bar in the world” for its record number of drinking establishments—more than 260—sit side by side with historic churches that escaped the bombing, including the Sankt Lambertus Basilika with its crooked spire.
Nearby the Schlossturm (Castle Tower) is all that remains of the city’s former castle, now featuring an upscale restaurant overlooking the Rhine called Laterne im Schiffarhtmuseum. We enjoyed a private dinner at Laterne with Lord Mayor Geisel and several Düsseldorf notables, enjoying the top-floor panoramic views of the city. Several sightseeing cruises depart from just below the castle’s courtyard area on the river promenade, where locals enjoy an array of waterfront pubs and restaurants.
A Cartwheeling City
Throughout the old city, you’ll see several statues of children doing cartwheels. This longstanding tradition hails back to 1288 when a victory at the Battle of Worringen won Düsseldorf its own town charter and the children turned "wheels of joy" to celebrate. Since then, young cart-wheelers (Radschläger) often perform in the streets to earn some spending money and the town has an annual cart-wheeling tournament. In fact, the city’s Lord Mayor, Thomas Geisel, often expresses his exuberance for his city with cartwheels and we were treated to one when he welcomed us to Düsseldorf.
On the eastern, more modern side of the city, the Königsallee, or Kö as the locals call it, is a gorgeous tree-lined avenue filled with designer jewelers and boutiques from Harry Winston, Rolex and Bucherer to Hermes, Chanel and Armani.
Located near the corner of this famous upscale boulevard, the five-star Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella hotel, is a perfect location for exploring both the old and new parts of the city, both within a 5-10-minute walk from the front door. Not only is this luxury boutique hotel absolutely stunning, but the Breidenbacher is also known for its incredible service and attention to detail.
A Cozy Living Room
The modern rooms are equipped with touch screen pads to control everything from lighting to drapes and complimentary minibars are stocked daily with non-alcoholic beverages. The cozy Living Room—set up like a library—also offers 24-hour complimentary beverages.
Early check-ins and late check-outs to accommodate flight schedules are de rigueur here at no additional charge and every guest is treated like a VIP, with access to a personal assistant to help with any special requests, dinner reservations, event tickets or directions. Adjacent to the hotel are a medical clinic operated by one of Germany’s top cardiologists and a cosmetic surgery clinic, making the Breidenbacher a top choice for medical tourism.
A Day in Berlin with airberlin
After two days in Düsseldorf—not nearly enough time to thoroughly explore this vibrant city—we headed to Berlin on a local airberlin flight, only a 45-minute flight. We were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the airberlin campus and I was impressed with the employee-friendly corporate culture that included a spacious cafeteria and an onsite childcare center.
We visited the product showroom, used for training and the introduction of new products and got a rare glimpse of the operations center, where flights are tracked 24/7.
The team in operations are prepared to handle rerouting of planes due to bad weather
or other situations that may arise before or during a flight, and Network Operations Center manager, Axel Mallalieu, explained his role in forecasting possible crisis situations or operations problems and creating plans for handling those events. We also enjoyed a tasting of airberlin’s gourmet flight menu choices and met the airline's CEO Stefan Pichler.
More US Gateways Coming
Pichler makes no bones about his plan to focus the future of the airline on long haul flights to the U.S. and Asia, and although he was not willing to release names at the moment, he hinted that more American gateways were in the works for the very near future.
In an era where international flights have mostly equaled long and frustrating travel days of up to 30 hours, it’s a welcome change to find an airline like airberlin. Their great customer service and direct, no-hassle flights have turned dreading an international trip into anticipating and enjoying the journey…and that’s how travel should be!
Ginger Warder is a freelance writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers.