airberlin is undoubtedly one of Europe’s major airlines, flying to 162 destinations in 40 countries, but it is the airline’s continued expansion in the U.S. market that is making North American travelers and travel agents take notice.
In May of this year, for example, airberlin inaugurated nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Berlin, as well as from Las Vegas to Dusseldorf; and it upped its flight frequencies from New York to Berlin, as well as from Miami and San Francisco to Dusseldorf. Additionally, come March 23, 2013, airberlin will start operating nonstop flights from Chicago to Berlin, making it the first airline ever to provide a connection between this major U.S. metropolitan city and the capital of Germany.
And when it comes to its aircraft and the comfort of passengers, airberlin is most certainly not resting on its laurels. In fact, at the start of this year airberlin began enhancing the level of comfort on board its A330-200 long-haul fleet, with new seats and new in-flight entertainment systems in both economy and business class.
With all these newsworthy items to talk about, we thought it was a good time to sit down with airberlin’s v.p. of sales and marketing, Titus Johnson.
Paloma Villaverde de Rico: What does airberlin bring to the U.S. market?
Titus Johnson: airberlin offers a value for money product and is noted for its award-winning friendly service. Unlike many of the legacy carriers, we are an airline with a heart and that is demonstrated in the service we provide our guests. In addition, airberlin operates one of the youngest fleets in the air today (average age 5.5 years) and has received numerous awards supporting our claim to be eco-efficient. We offer nonstop service to our international hubs in Dusseldorf and Berlin in the heart of Europe offering convenient connections to many destinations throughout Europe.
PVR: In the past several months, airberlin has added more flights from some of its already-existing gateways in the U.S., and a new gateway, Chicago—what has prompted this growth?
TJ: airberlin joined the oneworld alliance in March of this year and as part of our strategy to grow our presence in the U.S. we focused on increasing frequencies and adding Chicago to support our codeshares with American Airlines. By expanding our operations, we are able to offer guests the best connections to Europe through the major hubs served by American in the U.S. This will allow us to grow the outbound business from both the leisure and business market sectors.
PVR: Will this growth continue in 2013, and if so, what can travelers and travel agents expect?
We anticipate additional service into Berlin once the new airport Berlin Brandenburg has opened. We are also offering additional incentive programs to support the travel agent community such as commission incentives and the most attractive fares in the market.
PVR: What is airberlin’s U.S. to Germany traffic?
TJ: Last year, airberlin transported over a quarter of a million passengers originating from the U.S. to Germany and beyond. This year we anticipate that number to have increased by at least 50 percent due to the increase in frequencies and the introduction of new service such as the Los Angeles-Berlin nonstop, which was introduced in May of this year, and the year-round service now offered from Los Angeles to Dusseldorf with three weekly frequencies.
PVR: Can you tell me a little bit about the enhancements on board airberlin’s long-haul fleet: what can a passenger in economy class expect and what can a passenger expect in business class?
TJ: airberlin has refurbished its entire long-haul A330-200 fleet with new economy class and business class seats. In addition, guests now enjoy complimentary full beverage service throughout their flight in both economy and business class and a state-of-the- art on-demand entertainment system with touch screens.
airberlin also provides a variety of gourmet meals in business class and guests in economy also get a choice of entrees. Business class guests have power ports available to them so they can work in comfort and as a member of the oneworld alliance can comfortably wait for their flight in the many oneworld or airberlin lounges around the world.
PVR: What makes the airberlin onboard experience unique from other onboard experiences?
TJ: Our crew. Our crew delivers service in a friendly manner; they enjoy what they do and it shows and we pride ourselves on the level of service they provide our guests. When guests are on board they feel welcomed and at ease.
PVR: Why has AirBerlin made comfort for passengers a top priority?
TJ: We believe in retaining all our guests. Once they try airberlin, they come back and this is something we strive for every day. We want to leave them with the best impression and we want them to be part of the airberlin experience in every possible way.
TJ: Families traveling on airberlin receive child discounts for children aged 2–11 and at check-in are given kid packs filled with puzzles and other toys to entertain them throughout the flight. We also provide bassinet service to families traveling with infants; this provides an added comfort level that is greatly appreciated by our guests. Our guests can also preorder child meals that are specially created for children.
PVR: What is your response when travelers complain about air travel?
TJ: The travel industry is an extremely volatile environment and while we strive for perfection in everything we do, we know we will face many challenges along the way. However, at airberlin we take each and every complaint very seriously and are always looking at ways to improve our service so that air travel becomes as hassle-free as possible.
PVR: What role do travel agents play in the growth of airberlin?
TJ: They play an extremely important role. We take great pride in the fact that we support the trade more than the majority of other airlines; we know that travel agents are a very valued channel. We provide the U.S. travel trade with all the tools necessary to ensure their success providing value based choices and a large European network for their clients.