In mid June, I left the US for a four continent journey, that would take me from the US through Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia. The main objective of the trip is to visit Australia (and fly in one of the most expensive flights possible to get there), but since I am traveling such a far distance, I want to visit as many new places along the way as I can.
Since this is something I don’t get to do on a regular basis, I also wanted to use some of the points I’ve accumulated through loyalty programs and credit card spending to travel as expensively as possible while spending as little real money as possible. The first part of this trip is a business class flight from JFK to Dusseldorf Germany on Air Berlin.
Air Berlin – Business Class
Operated by: HiFly
New York (JFK) to Dusseldorf Germany (DUS)
Arrival: 10:50am (next day)
Duration: 7 hours 20 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Cash Cost: approx. $3,838
How I paid: 60,000 British Airways Avios points and $5.60 for taxes
Booking the Award Ticket
There are two daily direct flights from JFK to Dusseldorf. One is an earlier flight at 5:25pm and the other is an evening flight that leaves at 9:30pm. Originally the only flight open for business class award tickets was the earlier flight, so I booked the earlier flight even though I really wanted to leave on the later flight. British Airways allows you to make changes to award tickets, so I knew that if an award ticket for the later flight opened, I would be able to book it. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I received an email notice from Expert Flyer letting me know that an award ticket opened on the later flight. I immediately called British Airways customer service and switched my award ticket to the later flight. Although British Airways allows changes to award tickets, they charge a change fee, which in my case was $75.
I traveled by train to JFK airport which seems to be the least stressful way of getting there. The check-in line for Air Berlin business class was empty. However, I did receive one unexpected surprise from the ticket counter person. They explained to me that Air Berlin would not be operating the flight tonight, instead, it would be operated by a Portuguese airline, HiFly. Unfortunately, that change meant the business class seats would be a significant downgrade from the Air Berlin business class seats which I found out about when I boarded.
While Air Berlin’s business class counter was empty, the airport security line was not empty. Air Berlin does not participate in TSA Precheck, however business class customers have access to a priority security lane, which is not as good as Precheck, but is still significantly faster than the regular security line.
After passing through security, I headed over to the Air Berlin lounge. Since Air Berlin does not have their own branded lounges in JFK, they share an American Airlines Admirals lounge in terminal 8.
Business Class Seats
The HiFly aircraft had 24 business class seats setup as four rows with three sets of two by two seats in each row. There was significant leg room between the seat in front of you. The leg room allowed the seats to recline, but only half way. Unfortunately these were just partially reclining seats instead of the fully reclining versions on some of the newer aircraft, including the earlier Air Berlin flight that I didn’t take. Some people can sleep on the partially reclining seats, I’m just not one of those people. The seats were very comfortable and there was plenty of room, I just wasn’t able to fall asleep on the partially reclining seats.
One of the strange aspects about this flight was that even though it was operated by HiFly, the catering was actually provided by Air Berlin. The stewardess explained the arrangement to me, but she only spoke some English, so I didn’t fully follow the explanation.
Fresh Seasonal Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Chicken Breast “Cajun” with Diced Watermelon, Radish, and Goat Cheese Crumble
Pheasant Breast poached in Butter accompanied by Kale, Cherry Tomatoes, and a Duet from Quinoa and Barley
Passion Fruit Mousse Cake
Louis d’Or Brut Champagne (pre-flight drink)
Bitburger Premium Pilsner
2015 Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc
2015 San Simone Pinot Grigio
Fresh Fruit Plate
Butter, Cream Cheese, and Jam
The Chicken Breast “Cajun” was a little too spicy for my taste. The chicken pheasant was excellent and the dessert was very good. I preferred the pinot grigio over the chenin blanc. The Bitburger Premium Pilsner was not something I would normally drink but was very good. The only part of the meal I didn’t love was the breakfast. I thought it was a bit on the plain side without much in the way of other options.
– The business class seats are very comfortable and have plenty of room between seats
– Flight staff was very responsive and helpful
– The dinner and drinks options were very good
– The seats on the HiFly A330 aircraft do not fully recline which may make it difficult to sleep
– Breakfast options were limited
– Although rare, an unexpected carrier change (Air Berlin to HiFly) could lead to much different business class product than you were expecting (Air Berlin has fully reclining business class seats)
Although I wished I was on the original Air Berlin flight (since that flight would have had fully reclining seats), the HiFly business class flight was still very good. The flight staff was friendly and responsive, the dinner and drinks options were very good, and the seats had plenty of legroom and were very comfortable.
One of the downsides of flying on long international flights is both the lack of sleep and jet lag that can happen. When I get off a flight where I don’t sleep well, I’m glad to have a single wallet where I keep both my passport and money while traveling. The wallet I use is available on Amazon. The only thing worse than walking off a plane half sleep deprived, is realizing your passport fell out while your traveling because you had to carry it separately from your wallet.