Welcome to the Culinary World of Air Berlin

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Let’s be honest, traveling on coach is no longer fun. In fact, it can be painful especially on long hauls. See my write up on Airline Woes for the traveler and how airline fees and acceptance of mediocre service has gotten out of control.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had an opportunity to fly on a few airlines Business and First Class, both domestically and internationally and it’s astonishing how that upgrade makes you feel like a normal human being, rather than a cattle row being shipped in and shipped out of a plane. I’m old enough to remember finer dining in coach where they used silver cutlery, served hot meals, gave out pens and cards and didn’t charge you for drinks, to watch a movie or for the headphones. Today, you need to fly Business or First Class to have that seamless experience.

On my most recent trip to Berlin with Air Berlin, traveling in Business Class was a godsend given the fact that I was coming from America’s west coast. They offer 3 direct flights, from NYC, Chicago and most recently, Miami which was added this month. And so, I was off to Chicago with Air Berlin’s partner American Airlines and then direct to Berlin on a seat that conveniently declined to a full flat bed, which they certainly didn’t offer in coach 20 or so years ago.

Those who read me often know I’m a stickler for great service and how disheartened I am to live in a country that was formerly known for stellar customer service and today has fallen before the “average” line. Airlines take the cake here, especially domestic ones, however when I fly international, I typically get better service than when I fly domestic and there’s often a sense of appreciation that I’m flying with them. In other words, “thanks for being a customer. How can we help you?”

The Germans ‘get that’ and it shows on Air Berlin. While in many ways, flying Business with them was similar to flying another well respected European airline on Business or First Class (the beds, the personal care cases with socks, earplugs and toothbrushes, the drink as you arrive and so on), the service was top notch. I also loved their solo window seats because of the fact that they are hidden behind a half-wall so to speak, so you feel like you’re in your own private cocoon, making it both private and quiet. Lovely!!

I expected “the service” but I didn’t expect the food to be so good, a rarity among airlines today. I was offered a specialty cocktail, champagne or orange juice as soon as I walked in and in typical Business or First Class style, a hot washcloth to clean up.

On my flight, they had different choices heading east than on the return flight. Appetizers included a chicken breast “Aphrodite” with herbs and pepper flavored couscous salad and curry cream (pictured below) or a Marinated Salmon with wasabi flavored potato salad and horseradish mayonnaise garnished with affila cress (second photo).

Traditional salad for a mid-day meal.

Here’s one of the appetizers on their cross Atlantic flight: scallops with a delicate Jicama Daikon Salad and herb mustard vinaigrette, although they also had a Prosciutto option with a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad and crostini option which looked equally delicious.

For main courses on both flights, the option was quite diverse. Included was a Chicken Fillet in a light cream sauce with thyme and lemon flavored tagliatelle garnished with green asparagus and sauteed grape tomatoes, a Sous vide cooked Brisket of Beef in a delicate horseradish sauce with parsley potatoes and carrot-celery slices, a Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach in a classic Alfredo sauce with Ratatouille vegetables, a Roasted Chicken Breast in a creamy red pepper sauce with Saffron Rice and grilled Green Asparagus, a Braised Prime Rib with root vegetables, mashed potatoes with mustard seeds and blanched Broccoli, Gnocchi with mushrooms in a creamy leek sauce and a fillet of Cod with fingerling potatoes, grilled peppers and blanched Haricot Vert (below).

I wanted to include this chicken tandoori flavored dish as well as it came from Coach Class since I wanted an option without cream or cheese for one of the legs and there were none on the Business Class menu. This will give you an idea of a chicken dish offering if you’re not flying Business and I have to admit, it was delicious.

My only suggestion would be for the culinary team to add non-cream and dairy options to their menu.  Since sometimes upgrades are last minute depending on availability, a customer may not have time for special meal requests that stipulate food restrictions.

Standard nuts and a dish for mid-day lunch….served with tea! I love the fact that every time you get a cup of tea, you get a dark chocolate. Cold meal options included a pork tenderloin marinated in sesame and pepper with noodles, cashnew nuts and a chili mustard confit.

Dessert…..a choice of Camembert and Manchego cheese, a wild garlic flavored Grunlander and Hazelnut cream cheese, a passion fruit tarlet or a Lemon mousse with fresh berries and mint! Yum!

Now for breakfast: fresh fruit, cold meats, cheese, yoghurt, juice, croissants, bread and of course, tea and coffee.

A fun personal touch are their Air Berlin chocolates from Lindt which they pass out when you leave. I had a cute steward and well…he gave me two.

They served a Louis d’Or Brut, Cuvee Louis le Grand Vincelles, Frankreich Champagne from France, a Zeter Der Kleine Bar Rose Tracken Pfalz from Germany, a San Simone Pino Grigio from Italy, a Silvaner Chardonnay and a Dr. Kohler Weissburgunder Rheinhessen, both from Germany, and for reds, an Olvena Somantono Bodegas from Spain and a Schneider TUR-TUR Markus Schneider Pflaz from Germany, the latter being my personal favorite among this list.

The entertainment system was more seamless to use than most, once I figured out that I could use the remote that is – perfectly positioned. It made it all too easy to watch and listen and so three movies later, a short nap and a fabulous meal did just the trick. It really made a difference on my return flight since we had such an early start and were out and about painting the town red on our last Saturday night in Berlin till late.

On my return flight, there were two others from my all female travel writer group on my flight who found me in tears when we landed. Not everyone knows this, but I seem to watch hopelessly romantic films on flights and always seem to land at a destination sobbing, this time due to Jodie Foster’s amazing performance in Anna & The King, a love story about an English educator and a King from Siam at the tail end of the 19th century.

Two thumbs up Air Berlin! I would most certainly fly you again and hope that I do as I need to return to Berlin to explore more of its gritty, yet sophisticated and fun sexiness as well as it’s deeply rich culture and complex history. Bravo!

Be sure to read our Berlin editorial coverage, which includes my most recent articles on Berlin’s Foodie Scene and Top Berlin Restaurants a comprehensive guide to Berlin’s Culture & History and more.

Note: I used hashtag #BLNHoods for my trip to Berlin so be sure to check out my Instagram and Twitter feeds for some great photographs and observations.

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Note: My flight by Air Berlin was hosted but I was not expected to write a standalone article about them nor told what to say. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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