Air Berlin to join the Oneworld alliance

Air Berlin has reached a tentative agreement to join the Oneworld alliance. There’s going to be a press conference tomorrow to discuss the particulars, though either way it’s going to be well over a year before they formally join.

This is an interesting move for a few reasons. First of all, Air Berlin is a low cost carrier, and most of their flights are operated by one cabin aircraft. They have expanded like crazy lately, after taking over several smaller airlines, and are now the sixth largest airline in Europe. They do have a business class product on their longhaul flights, though it’s not fantastic. Check out this trip report for an example of their business class product. And yes, they have some senior flight attendants (see this picture — yes, the lady on the left and guy on the right are flight attendants). But that’s neither here nor there.

Gary thinks this is an interesting acquisition though not a huge one. On one hand I agree with him. Like Gary, I like to use my miles for good premium cabin products, and Air Berlin doesn’t exactly have a world class premium product (let alone a first class product). And no doubt Oneworld has some great premium airlines, like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, JAL, and LAN.

On the other hand, Oneworld has virtually no service between the US and Germany. American is cutting their flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, meaning there’s exactly one Oneworld flight between the US and Germany — and that’s a flight from Dallas, which you can’t really connect to if you’re on the east coast. In theory British Airways is the other option through London, but if you want to accrue American miles, it’s not an option due to the anti-trust agreement. So this does open up a huge market, though not with the best of airlines.

Most importantly, though, Oneworld doesn’t “integrate” nearly as well as Star Alliance. What do I mean? Star Alliance flights connect much more easily to each other. If I fly Continental from Newark to Tokyo, I can pick up an ANA flight to Hong Kong, Asiana flight to Incheon, Air China flight to Beijing, Singapore flight to Singapore, Thai flight to Bangkok, United flight to Taipei, Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, etc. They just “hub” incredibly well. The same can’t be said for Oneworld, which is why an airline with good origin and destination options is important.

So color me (somewhat) excited. Besides, my cousin is a captain for them…

Filed Under: Airberlin
  1. Ben, I agree that oneworld doesn’t hub well, especially at Heathrow. Most of the argument is about number of carriers (Star is pretty big in Asia – love it) but airport-specific, Heathrow is just a mess and if you’re doing other than a BA-BA on-line connection it’s going to be a real pain regardless.

    Still, connecting through Madrid is about 600 miles of extra flying. Not TERRIBLE.

    And Air Berlin doesn’t add much for the US-Germany market anyway. They fly what, ex-Miami and Ft Myers?

    Their flights to other cities have been seasonal, or at least that’s my general impression, I haven’t verified this. That could change with their AA-linkup, could JFK, LAX, and Chicago be in the offing with year-round service?

    But when? Will they need to wait for all those 787s start coming online..!

    Still seems pretty minor to me. Worth blogging after a week of slow news 🙂 But minor.

  2. All valid points, Gary, though Air Berlin does have quite a few new flights to the US. They now serve Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Fort Myers, and Miami year round (as far as I know). That’s quite a few routes!

  3. I was shocked to see an Air Berlin A330 at YVR yesterday, as I thought they were only an intra-Europe carrier. Turns out they fly YVR-DUS twice a week until October, then once a week, departing at the same time as the daily LH YVR-FRA flight.

  4. This could also open up a great use of BA miles for quick hops when around Europe. 4500 BA miles for Europe 1 – Europe 1. However, unlike when redeeming BA miles for BA flights hopping around Europe, hopefully when redeeming BA miles for Air Berlin flights, you won’t have to pay the hefty taxes and fuel surcharges that BA levies when redeeming on their own flights.

    Also, BA miles allow stopovers–so a great way to make a few hops around Europe for only 4500 miles!

    I give this addition 2 thumbs up!

  5. This is yet another sad example of the sad, sad state of noworld.
    Unless you live in DFW, you have no reason to fly trAAsh.

  6. Sounds interesting although the difference in product quality is bound to create some trouble. While long-haul can pass as vintage in business and econ products are about as crappy as everywhere else, short-haul is where I see problems in integration.

    They do promise free food/snacks on their shorthaul flights, but when the “food” turns out as a prepackaged Bifi-roll, I feel mislead. Similarly, OW flyers connecting onto domestic AB flights may be in for a shock – is OW desperate enough to not care or will be see AB actually changing their product somewhat?

  7. If AB joins OneWorld you’d expect them to have lounges – something they don’t have now.
    This will become a major plus for the AB customers as AB should either start with their own lounge offerings or pay for their customers to use third party lounges.
    The lack of lounges is one criteria to differ between a LCC and full service carrier.

  8. I think the less integrated nature of OneWorld is entirely due to lack of ATI, something that should change dramatically now.

    While I agree that this isn’t a massive deal to non-German fliers at the moment, I very much think it’s a stake in the ground ahead of some major changes to Air Berlin’s route network after BBI opens.

  9. While from a US standpoint this might sound like a not so good idea, I am psyched about it – well as soon as I can see how many miles I can earn on my trips. Other than usually to my US trips, I can never earn miles when flying in Germany (and I only so often need to go through London to differen locations). So adding Air Berlin will give me a chance at least at some priviliges and the right counter alone might be worth it.

    Second, even if there is a Lufthansa flight (and I do not believe my mind would change if I would have status with Staralliance) I prefer Air Berlin. Much cleaner planes, much nicer attitude and they still provide you with the feeling from service. And you can book one way flights without the outrages fees most european airlines still charge. Will I fly them to the states? most likely not. One does fly air berlin to european destiantions and seriously: For getting into the German market after UK and spain this is the most logical choice business wise.

    So in the grand scheme of things will it be great for somebody travelling for miles and in first class for somebody from the UK or the states? No. But for somebody living in Germany, travelling in Germany and Europe without having to go through London in order to gain some miles but being able to go directly? Awesome.

    The product alone is worth it for me and I am extremly extremly happy about air berlin joining one world. And hei, lounges would be a bonus.

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