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 airliners.net 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…