AirBerlin MIA-DUS-VCE/BCN-DUS-MIA report

Hey everyone! Although later than I promised, I bring you my first trip report! There were two legs on my trip each of which consisted of 2 sections, bringing it up to 4 flights in total making AB the airline i’ve flown the most with. Now this is just a trip report with photo’s, however for a full review of the airline checkout my previous post of AirBelin Review. If you guys have any further questions, please let me know on any of my forms of contact listed in the contact tab! Ok here we go, enjoy!

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.19.45 PM

Well this trip begins at my home in a northern suburb heading to MIA (Miami International Airport). As every south Floridian knows, we hate our airports. While most of us fly out of MIA, we all highly prefer FLL since it is much easier and faster, although we like to avoid our airports overall. MIA in specific is so dated, the exterior facade looks like something out of a 60’s movie, and the interior soon follows.IMG_7633 Old humidity drenched carpets line the concourses, dirty windows, minimal lighting, bad food choices and dirty bathrooms soon follow. In fact when I flew out to London last year, everything in my concourse was closed except a PizzaHut to go booth. There is one brighter side, that is concourse J, the brand new south terminal which is splendid, although still lacks in things to do while you’re awaiting your flight. My flight departed MIA at 3:55PM, AB7001 departing from E concourse (OneWorld partners use this concourse). We arrived early at around 2pm to check in, after saying our goodbyes we crossed through the threshold of adventure, albeit not a very pretty one, but non the less the start of our vacation abroad. Upon arrival at MIA you are met with low ceilings, and well illuminated check in desks, as well as a small array of shops and restaurants (may I say, better selection pre-security than post.)IMG_7652 We reached the AB check in counter and began the process, we ran into a small issue with our documentation being that I booked my mom’s trip under her married name and not her maiden name which is on her passport (oops!). However our desk agent was more than happy to take care of the small issue quickly as my siblings and I had a friendly who has the lightest luggage contest. After we fixed the issue, we were checked in as well as received our tickets for this flight and our Venice connection at DUS.  Now it was off to the TSA! I’ve found that MIA TSA is quite friendly, last year the agent had a nice conversation with my friends and I about our trip, it made the fact that somewhere someone was seeing us naked less awkward! Although I’m a strong supporter of strict security measures, if it means I’ll be safe, I’m fine removing my shoes, walking through an x-ray and all. Once we moved past security, Me being the aviation fan boy I am, decided we needed to see the newly refurbished AA concourse, plus we still had over an hour till boarding and our concourse was nasty.IMG_7644 After a long walk, we reached the new area and it was quite nice! Still some work left but nevertheless it is a much needed upgrade from before. After grabbing some Chinese take out food like every good American we headed to our gate. Boarding was a bit messy considering they had 4 cramped gates for 4 wide-bodies including a 747-4 from BA. So at 3:50 a bit later than expected, they began boarding our A330. While waiting I got to see the fantastic ‘Queen of the Skies‘ a BA744 pull up to their gate. We began boarding a few minutes late (not that we minded considering our 6am arrival to Germany), something I found interesting was that there were 2 service dogs boarding into the main cabin like us, Let me tell you that they were the quietest passengers on board! When you reach the front of the bridge right before the plane, AB has a nice selection of reading materials in both German and English including newspapers and magazines, a nice touch normally saved for first class in US carriers and some EU as well. Upon entering through the main door you are greeted by a basket with small fruit flavored hard candies individually wrapped in AB wrappers and a warm greeting in either English or German by an FA.

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

They check your ticket and inform you to turn left into first class or right to one of the 2 economy cabins. We quickly entered and put our luggage up and took our seats. Sadly this was my one downfall on AB economy flights. since you’re not allowed to choose your seating until you reach the gate unless you pay (and our flight was full), my siblings and I got stuck in the last row before the mid class lavatories, hence our seats did not recline and we were stuck in between 4 bathrooms since we were in the middle row.IMG_7656 AB’s 330 has a 2-4-2 layout in economy yet I felt more spacious than Swiss’ same layout the previous year, still cramped though. On our seats awaited a blue soft blanket wrapped in plastic, a small pillow with the AB logo on it and my favorite, an Amenity Kit! I felt so special receiving one in economy, this is a luxury no one gives economy anymore! And it wasn’t cheap either (unlike my plane ticket!). Keep in mind AB gives Amenity kits on nighttime long haul flights, daytime flights only get the pillow and blanket. The kit includes: Travel size toothbrush with cap and toothpaste, nice warm plane socks, AB grey and and red sleeping mask, and earplugs, from seeing previous reports AB’s first class receives the same 4 items plus added bonuses, all this came packed in a nice cotton pouch labeled with the AB logo and a really cool engine fan blade graphic. IMG_7657While we finished boarding I snapped some pics of the kit for you guys! I kept everything in the kit (I didn’t use anything but the sleeping mask since I already brought nice socks myself in prep) for my next flight. Soon the plane was fully boarded and after a quick 5 more minutes we left the gate and made the trudge to the runway, sorry no pics of that, I got stuck with a middle aisle seat! As fast as we left the gate our engines started up and we lifted off the ground right after I sent my last text in the US for the next 16 days. After a few minutes we reached cruising altitude and the FA’s came around handing out headphones if you needed (AB used to charge $5 for this, however now are included) While not the nicest (are there any economy headphones that are actually good?) they were in-ears meaning a little more sound canceling than others so I was happy, but I brought my own. After playing with the IFE a bit and plugging my iphone in to the convenient on screen USB plug I was settled in and I began to smell food. Although I had breakfast at home and a quick snack at the airport I was hungry. Around an hour and a half into the flight the FA’s emerged with the food and drink carts, this was perhaps my highlight of the flight! While options were pretty standard (chicken or pasta) it’s everything around it that made me feel like I wasn’t in economy (while other carriers offer things like what I’m about to say, no of them offer it in a way as AB does that makes you feel like you’re in business class, that is until you try to move in your seat and you realize how small it is in economy!) IMG_7659The FA’s were very nice and made a couple of jokes with us and were a good mix of male and female FA’s, not too young but not old either, they were seasoned FA’s. Much like any airline merger you can always see remnants of the name that didn’t survive the merger, on AB you see it in some of the equipment and cart bins still labeled LTU. Our turn came and we were offered the options of, well… Chicken or pasta, I chose the chicken wanting to be full to fall asleep faster.  My meal was a nicely seasoned chicken and some non exciting over cooked rice (this was the downside). This was accompanied by an amazing German potato salad dish which I’ve tried in many German restaurants back home and is a personal favorite, garnished with some chives and followed by a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, a dinner roll with brie cheese and butter, and an AB red plastic mug for the later stuff. Let’s just say I kept the mug and am currently drinking some coffee from it as I write. The drink options were a definite highlight, so many non alcoholic drink options from soda, many juices (my brother got a tomato juice they serve it with salt and pepper on the side), and alcoholic drinks such as beer, wines (my parents enjoyed some with dinner, the option includes red and white wine) and other spirits, lets just say we found great drinks to compliment our meal. I finished my main meal and cleaned the bowl the salad came in, and the brie! It was Nice that the AB meal came in a hard plastic tray and the side items in hard plastic containers (comparing to UA and Swiss long-haul which came in flimsy plastic container). I kept my cake and spoon and my tray was cleared and the FA’s followed with a coffee and tea service, this is done on the serving carts but the FA’s have nice trays they extend to you and you place your mug, IMG_7661they fill it with your choice and extend it back to you, on the tray are nice containers which carry sugar and in another cream if you’d like to grab which I did for my tea. I finished off my cake with my tea and the FA’s cleared the cabin and did a run of complimentary water bottles for everyone to have during the ‘sleeping’ period of the flight. The lights were dimmed and I decided to do some solitaire while sipping on my tea to pass the time, after a couple of aggravating rounds of solitaire that I lost I gave up and dried my mug and saved it, I pulled out my sleeping mask after a quick bathroom stop, adjusted my headrest and put on my blanket and tried to sleep while listening to the many options on the IFE (from Beyonce to classical, you can add songs to your playlist and listen to that instead of whole albums and such which I thought was very nice). Due to the position of the seat by the bathroom sleeping was a failed effort and so I resorted to drawing to pass the time and it flew by (no pun intended)! Sure enough we were 2 hours prior to landing, and the lights came back on for breakfast. Breakfast as a meal wasn’t as exciting as dinner flavor wise.IMG_7662 Again the FA’s came around happily offering our meal. It wasn’t the best I’ve had but considering the 10:30pm time back home I was on, I wasn’t picky. the meal included of a deli dish which had some cheddar, turkey, and salami, wasn’t amazing but it went nicely with the butter and bread rolls on the side, it came garnished with a tiny pickle and tomato. Along side it were a nice fruit parfait which was refreshing with the blueberry muffin. I got myself orange juice to go with it, scarfed it down since I was hungry and was ready for another tea while I enjoyed some more drawing. I didn’t want tea when my FA went around but as the FA on the other row passed I changed my mind and she was happy to serve me some even though I wasn’t in her section. Quickly after breakfast was cleared the FA’s came around for a hot towel service, which was nice considering the look on my face from not sleeping, and I wouldn’t be for another 20 some hours, they passed them out and picked them up fast.

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA's new ORD-DUS flight here

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA’s new ORD-DUS flight here

Just like that we were on approach to Dusseldorf and quickly we landed and began our way to the gate. This was perhaps the most stable flight I’ve ever been on, no movement at all. We arrived at our gate, seatbelt signs turned off, we grabbed our bags, I grabbed 3 complimentary post cards on the way out and was waved goodbye and told ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ (goodbye in German) and entered the cold of Germany. Remember the dogs? I forgot about them too until we landed. We went through passport control, our bags would be transferred by AB to our next plane, and we entered DUS, what a beautiful airport!

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

As an aviation fanboy I was overjoyed by its model airplane shop, huge observation windows, observation deck and a lot of aviation touches. As a regular flyer I was thrilled with its cleanliness, wide spaces, great food, stores and ease of movement. As an architect student I was blown away by the structures of the main hall which is stunning and all the details in the concourses.

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

The airport really blew me away, far better than expected and I had my first authentic German food experience here as well, it was different. A couple of hours after landing, the stores opened up and I ran to the model shop, I was let down by their lack of 1:400 scale models, but happy to see some 1:200 in person and some 1:500. We did some more store hopping around the terminal after we left the security area and explored around a bit. Let me tell you how well Germans were dressed, and here I was as comfortable as I could get in public with basketball shorts and an Italy soccer jersey and sneakers (since warm Italy was our final stop). I threw on a sweater vest I had in my carry on to fancy up a bit but it wasn’t enough haha. The hours passed and it was time to head to our gate for our Venice flight, which was delayed 30 minutes overall, this was bad for us considering how short our time in Venice already was. We headed to security, I forgot to take my belt off and was escorted to a small side cubicle for a pat down and was let go. The concourses at DUS are wonderful, they have a warm homey feel and good shopping and eating.

Seems like DUS is over capacity

Seems like DUS is over capacity

We reached our gate and I sat watching the planes go by which for a fanatic like me having the view of a 340 and the main runway was thrilling. Perhaps the weirdest part of the Germany were the airport bathrooms for which I have no words for. To my surprise our plane was on a remote stand and we had to be bussed to it, I, never having boarded on the tarmac was as thrilled as a child going to Disney world.

I was freezing

I was freezing

That was until I put a foot outside in the 50 degree weather, I was shivering but luckily packed a jacket in my carry-on (always pack smart with stuff in your carry on! I’ll do that as a future article). We were again greeted by a nice FA and the same candies as before, sucking on them really helps you pop your ears as you climb. We boarded quickly and I took my window seat! The legroom in AB’s domestic fleet, for lack of a better word, is divine, so spacious and comfortable seats! Our ride to Venice was an Airbus 320-2 in a 3-3 configuration which was comfortable. We buckled in, saw a quick safety video on the overhead screens and we departed quickly as we were already late. Once in the air a snack service began, they offered soda and other non alcoholic options and a bag of chips or a twix bar as a snack, I opted for the chips.

More like wasabi to me

More like wasabi to me

I got a bag of German brand chips flavored as ‘American Cream/honey mustard’, I’m sorry Germans, but have you been to the states? Those chips were repulsive, it was like eating wasabi covered lays, no one finished the bag and I had to drown two cokes to remove the flavor. Thank goodness they’re limited edition, they should of never been an edition to begin with. As the flight went on I knocked out, with all that legroom it’s hard not to, I was spread out sleeping like a mad man. After some time we began our approach into Venice, I was missing my time on these seat already, but our captain made up most of our half hour delay, we arrived only 8 minutes behind schedule, upon exiting the plane we were handed AirBerlin chocolate hearts which were delightfully tasty and a nice touch as we walked on the tarmac into the busses to the terminal with an EK330 next to us, let’s just say the aviation fan in me was overwhelmed with so much awesome. As I said right after we landed an Emirates A330 landed which was awesome to see an Emirates bird in person while standing on the tarmac right next to the runway, definitely up there with watching my cruise sail away through Venice while standing on the top front of the ship during a thunderstorm at 1am, let’s just say when I vacation there is no time for resting, I can do that back home.

simply beautiful

simply beautiful

The approach into Venice is now one of my favorites, truly beautiful, I’d tell you what side to sit on to see the island, but I’ll let you guys figure that out with simple wind patterns and runway orientation. Just like that my long 20+ hour journey into Venice from Miami was done, on perhaps the most comfortable set of flights I’ve ever experienced. AB pilots were fantastic in handling their planes, very little turbulence, got us there on time, Flight attendants were good as well and a lot of little perks you normally don’t get in economy made it nice. Well that wraps up part I of this review, part II will be the return flight, which is coming now, so if you’re like me, go take a break, stretch out a bit, use the bathroom, re-fill your drink, pet your dog or other pet, text your mother, look out the window, shuffle your music a bit, re-heat left over pizza, look up a recipe for a cake in a mug, start planning your next trip, lay on the floor and ponder the universe, RECOMMEND THIS BLOG TO EVERYONE!… That’s all I did between writing the two parts. So now buckle up, here we go for Part two!!

PART II BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

After a fantastic 2 and a half weeks exploring places like Istanbul, Athens, Naples and Barcelona it was time to head home sadly. When booking this flight I saw that all connection from BCN arrived too late to connect to MIA in time so I happily booked us with a 23 hour layover in Dusseldorf to give us an extra day in Europe and give us a day in Germany which we’ve always wanted to see! So June 4th came and we checked out of our hotel in Barcelona and grabbed a cab to El Prat.

check in area

check in area

Our flight was still a morning flight so we arrived early and checked in, unlike MIA or DUS, check in here was eternal! That’s what happens when your staff is hired by swissport and not the airline, so our check in staff did not speak German, yet were working for a German airline. Our check in girl was new and put our luggage to stay at the airport over night, even though we had a 23 hour layover, you go girl! Luckily we caught her mistake and told her, she fixed it and after almost an hour of checking in we went through security, people complain about US TSA, Barcelona’s act like they’re being forced to be there and tortured, we passed after some queuing and entered BCN.

nice interior with good shopping

nice interior with good shopping

Let me give you the Airport Ian Review rundown, or AIR, as an:

Aviation Enthusiast: This airport was nice, had big windows to see the runways and tarmac so it was nice, heavy activity can be seen, I saw an SQ 773 parked, some Iberia long-hauls and a lot of US bound traffic at one point the area looked like I was walking through ORD or ATL with 2DL and 1US wide-bodies parked and a UA wide-body taxiing to its gate.

BCN or ORD?

BCN or ORD?

Architect Student: While to me not as impressive as DUS, this airport was still impressive, I know T1 is new and thus very modern and striking with its large seemingly singular piece waving ceiling. Its big expansive floor, easy to navigate mall and concourse made it nice, yet it lacks a way to quickly reach the end of the ridiculously long concourse.

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Frequent Flyer: BCN is kind of easy to navigate, there’s a few gates not on the main concourse that if you don’t read the signs you’ll miss. great dinning options, great modern look, good stores including a huge ZARA. Yet it’s staff was the not so good, cleaning staff were nice, but official airport staff (not including stores and/or restaurants) were kind of slow and sometimes rude.

love the diversity at DUS

love the diversity at DUS

Over all it wasn’t bad, I’d of liked more time to explore, but our check-in lady made sure we didn’t have that time. After running to our gate after a rushed McDonalds breakfast (you can tell where I’m from) we encountered the same girl from check-in at our gate! You can imagine we were over joyed especially since we were almost the last to board (one couple after us). Luckily the other gate agent scanned our tickets and we were off on our AB 321 for our short journey to DUS.

Istanbul 2020 a330

Istanbul 2020 a330

Much like our flight to VCE, the legroom on this was nice, AB has a 3-3 configuration on these babies and the staff was nice greeting us with hard candies again and light reading materials and telling us welcome aboard. After boarding finished and after a short delay during push-back we were off to the runway, after an Iberia bird landed we were next and soon enough we took off with beautiful views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. BCN is awfully close to the center of Barcelona so getting there is fast and take offs fly close to the city. Shortly into our flight the meal service began, there was a drink round and again some soft drinks included, then an actual meal round.

my breakfast

my breakfast

The options were a salami or cheese sandwich, I went for salami, the sandwich was quite tasty and had a corn salsa type of cream on it to compliment the filling, not the best sandwich I’ve ever had but for a 1.5 hour flight domestically in Europe it was a much appreciated surprise. Especially compared to what I’ve received on domestic US flights of longer times (a bag of peanuts). This aircraft had aisle TV’s and headphones were distributed if you wanted, they had a good mix of music videos, and US comedy shows. Not too long after our trash was collected and we landed in Dusseldorf for a fantastic day in Germany, This time I came ready in nice warm clothing… It was one of their hottest days… We spent a great day in Dusseldorf filled with impressive shopping, amazing dinning, great views, history, it was just above and beyond my expectations, I want to return to Germany so bad now! After our amazing day in Germany we headed to the train station and got on a quick train to DUS from the city center, we arrived and I ran to buy my snow globe at one of the shops (I collect snow globes from where I go) and headed up to the check in area, we were greeted with nice smiles and funny chatter and were told our flight wasn’t very full so it was not worth it to choose seats, we could just get up and move around the cabin, they checked in our bags, made some comments about Miami we laughed at and wished us a safe trip and we were off. Security was alright, we had an agent angry that everyone was using her line and not the other open line, yet we came to her line because it was shorter… After that we did some duty free shopping, our last in EU for a bit and grabbed a quick bite to eat by our gate and headed to our plane. IMG_8406 We reached our gate and said our goodbyes to Germany and boarded our 330, again we were greeted with newspapers and magazines and that famous hard candy! I crossed the galley to my row, I had a stranger as a seat mate which is actually the first time it happens so I was kind of excited. I settled down, happy I had an aisle seat and wasn’t by that horrendous bathroom area and met my seat mate. On this flight our seats only had the blanket and pillow, no amenity kit since the flight was during the day, no worries I still had mines from before. Sadly I didn’t photograph the food this time, I was distracted talking with the lady next to me! She was very nice, had a son around my age but she was still young, she works for a company that makes stabilizers for yatchs and gets to travel a lot, we talked the whole time and shared pictures of our trips. But I was still well aware of everything around me thinking, “This has to go on my blog”. So an hour and a half into the flight again the meal service began, for this flight I’d say my FA wasn’t as attentive as the one before, it was an older male, who seem to not want to help as much as his counterparts. The meal service began, the same basic chicken or pasta choice, again I chose chicken, it wasn’t as good, but it wasn’t bad, they again had my potato salad which my seat mate said she didn’t like and I was baffled at such remarks! However dessert this time was a brownie, but no brie cheese for my roll (I like brie). My sister got the pasta option which I tried, it was surprisingly delicious in a cream and mushroom sauce. I finished my meal and my oh so happy attendant cleared it and his co-worker came around much happier offering tea and coffee again, the same alcoholic and non alcoholic drink choices were available on this flight as on the MIA-DUS flight. When I poured my cream and sugar into my tea my seat-mate was asking me why I did that, she was cool, but her taste in food was so bland! We enjoyed our drinks over some chatter and another water bottle round was done for us, and then the lights were dimmed after a last trash round. I kept chatting and eventually she went to take a nap to so I went to see some TV, and again, drew for a while. Attempting to sleep, I couldn’t with the brightness of the sun in the cabin. After a long time into our 10 hour flight pretty much we experienced some turbulence that quickly ended and the lunch/pre landing snack service began. It had a small part of a veggie and deli wrap, which was good in flavor but soggy from sitting on a plane, another yogurt parfait, a bread roll with some deli slices on the side, and a small cookie along with all the drink choices. Soon after finishing they cleared the trays as I watched a movie on the IFE, and did another tea and hot towel run before the final stretch. IMG_8409An hour after, we were preparing to land and buckled our belts, I said my goodbyes to my seat mate and then we touched down and hit the breaks and I turned my cell phone on to see I only missed a call and two texts in my time abroad. We parked at the same gate we departed and began de-boarding and we got our stuff and filed out into MIA, the humidity hits you a bit when you step down, parking at another terminal from where immigration is was a joy. We walked around a mile inside small corridors to reach the AA terminals upstair and the immigration hall, this was a mess. A huge amount of people overflowing from all OW flights and AA international flights, we arrived and soon after the BA flight (a 747) arrived and multiple caribbean AA flights, combined with the already existing lines and US residents get pushed with immigrants here and so the line was incredible.IMG_8410 Having flown into MIA on Swiss which uses the new terminal on concourse J, immigration there is so fast and as a resident I go into the citizen line, we cleared immigration there in 10 minutes, unlike our almost 2 hours this time. Our luggage was all set aside, since we took so long the carousel was no longer spinning. Once we got our stuff we cleared customs in 5 minutes and entered MIA and as soon as we exited the airport doors the heat and humidity hit us like a freight truck full of dried concrete. Then it started raining, it wouldn’t be the full Floridian greeting without rain! What we took away from this is that we definitely would fly AB again in a heart beat, in fact I’m looking into them for my Israel trip next year. That sums up the trip, thanks to all my readers, and if you read this whole 5,000 word plus post, I thank you so much! Check out the rest of my blog if this is your first time on, and visit frequently for more travel awesomeness, recommend this blog to everyone you know! I really want more readers and you guys can help me achieve that! Leave any question or comments below or send them to my e-mail listed on the contact tab. Check out my previous AirBerlin review post for more. See you guys soon! As always, adventure is out there!

Cheers,

Ian

PS: I leave you with some pics!

This is my travel map! the red and white are places I’ve met people from and I want to go to, the black is where i’ve been, my goal is to replace them all to black! Here’s the before and after my trip

IMG_8411 IMG_8412

And here are my snow globes!

IMG_8413

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “AirBerlin MIA-DUS-VCE/BCN-DUS-MIA report

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