Airberlin Cancels Miami To Berlin Flight — Why?!

Airberlin currently operates service to Miami out of both Dusseldorf and Berlin. As it stands, the Miami to Dusseldorf flight is daily, while the Miami to Berlin flight is 5x weekly.

Airberlin-A330
Airberlin A330

I flew airberlin business class from Miami to Dusseldorf just a few months ago, and quite enjoyed my flight. It’s a great use of oneworld miles for travel to Europe, given that they don’t impose fuel surcharges, regardless of whether you book through American AAdvantage or British Airways Executive Club.

Airberlin-Business
Airberlin A330 business class

Airberlin’s service to Miami makes sense, given that:

  • Miami is a oneworld hub, so there’s lots of connecting traffic on both ends
  • Miami is the second most popular US destination for Germans, after New York

So I’m quite surprised that airberlin has announced that they’ll discontinue their Miami to Berlin flight as of May 4, 2015. Apparently they have plans to expand out of Dusseldorf to both Los Angeles and New York JFK, so I guess they don’t have enough planes to expand and keep their existing Miami service.

Why does route cancellation surprise me so much?

Fort Myers over Miami?!

One of the more random transatlantic routes out there is Dusseldorf to Fort Myers, which airberlin operates a few times a week. I think it’s safe to say that it’s almost exclusively a leisure route, and that makes sense since airberlin is mostly a leisure airline. They’ve actually operated this route for 20 years now, which is pretty amazing.

Still, is it really possible that Fort Myers is a more lucrative market than Miami? With the Miami route you have the potential for connecting traffic on both ends, while with the Fort Myers route you only have the potential for connecting traffic on one end.

Or is there some level of pride involved, whereby airberlin doesn’t want to leave a market they’ve been in for 20 years?

Anyway, I’m sure they’ve crunched the numbers, but it just surprises me that a Fort Myers to Dusseldorf route does better than a Miami to Berlin route.

 Should American take over the route?

Interestingly this announcement comes shortly after American’s CEO Doug Parker announced their intention to resume service between Miami and Frankfurt as of early 2015. While the details haven’t been finalized, my assumption is that the Miami to Frankfurt flight will come at the expense of one of their other Frankfurt routes, either out of Charlotte or Philadelphia.

Will the Miami to Frankfurt route work?

  • Lufthansa has daily A380 service between Frankfurt and Miami, so American is at a huge disadvantage
  • American doesn’t have many opportunities for connecting traffic in Frankfurt, since it’s a Star Alliance hub
  • American likely won’t be gaining much business traffic, so at best they’re looking at leisure traffic, which isn’t the most profitable

Given that, wouldn’t it make more sense for American to potentially take over the Miami to Berlin route?

  • Berlin has a population that’s about 5x as big as Frankfurt’s
  • American wouldn’t have any competition on the route
  • American would have opportunities for connecting traffic on both ends, thanks to their own network in Miami and airberlin’s network in Berlin

Bottom line

This route cut on the part of airberlin isn’t all that significant, it’s just interesting. Airberlin is in a bad financial situation, so I can appreciate them trying to optimize their network. It might not even be that the Miami to Berlin route is performing horribly, but rather just that they think they can make more money on another route.

With American’s announcement of the new Miami to Frankfurt route and airberlin’s announcement of cutting Miami to Berlin shortly thereafter, it just seems like there’s an opportunity for them to work together.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. This is about Berlin, not Miami.

    DUS – Florida gets good feed from better paid West Germans. Berlin does not have that kind of feed / history.

  2. Hi Lucky. There are 3 simple reasons. 1st of all Air Berlin plans to fly from Duesseldorf to Miami daily instead of 4 times a week from next year. 2nd the Business Class cabin was quite full but 280 Economy Class seats are hard to fill with a decent yield from TXL. So from DUS they get much better yields. And last but not least they struggled with connecting passengers in Tegel because of the very bad facilities based on the fact that the BER isn’t ready yet (and will be not completed within the next few years). If passenger had the choice to connect either in TXL or DUS they choose DUS. All 3 points are no assumption they are facts which I got from Air Berlin and the Airport Berlin Brandenburg.
    Best wishes from Berlin, Silvio

  3. Little doubt this route (and maybe the cancelled LAX-Berlin route) will return when (if?) Berlin Capital opens.

  4. Why do you think American won’t be getting much business traffic on a MIA-FRA route? While I suspect that they won’t be getting much FRA-originating business traffic, I imagine that US companies and Latin America-based companies would be more likely to have contracts with American rather than Lufthansa.

  5. Berlin is just a weird market. All the major carriers in Europe are focussing their l cost operations here (Germanwings for LH, IB Express, etc, etc). Full service seems to lose out to FRA, MUC and DUS.

    It’s probably due to the relatively weaker economic position of Berliners and those from the east vis a vis Westerners. They don’t give Berlin the motto “Arm aber sexy” for no reason.

  6. “Berlin has a population that’s about 5x as big as Frankfurt’s”

    you’re probably comparing city sizes. By metro size, it’s roughly the same. But FRA is far higher income/GDP per capita.

  7. Americans tend to think of Berlin as Germany’s biggest / most important destination. It’s probably third or fourth – Frankfurt and Munich are bigger, and Dusseldorf is comparable. As far as business travel, Frankfurt and Munich are much more popular, and Munich gets a lot of tourist visits as well. TXL is a tiny, outdated airport. They are supposed to build a new one, but that airport has been delayed several times. Berlin is a great destination for leisure / culture oriented travelers but it is better to fly somewhere else in Europe and to take a short hop to Berlin (or to travel there by train).

  8. I have two business class award seats booked for June 1, using AA miles — MIA-Berlin-Munich-Doha-Bangalore.
    What happens now, should I pro-actively call American and get a rebooking?
    Thanks for any help.

  9. Fort Myers caters to a fairly large contingent of Germans that live in the Port Charlotte area or that have second homes in Naples and on Marco Island. That flight has pretty good loads throughout the winter.

  10. Airlines don’t cut profitable routes, period, no matter what conspiracy theorists sometimes like to talk about on blogs, etc. The fact that they cut it signals that all that you mentioned above doesn’t add up to a profitable flight. Connections, etc, only add to profitability if the connecting markets have high fares or high proportions of biz travelers, or both. The connections on the MIA end were probably all to low fare leisure destinations out of Miami (low fare from point of sale Europe that is), which just dilutes the revenue to the MIATXL flight, thereby weakening, not strengthening it. Fort Myers, on the other hand, flies a limited number of times a week, is the only nonstop from all of Germany, and there is a lot of German home ownership in RSW. Less competition, limited service, and a rather captive market. Plus, no low fare connections on the Florida side to dilute the revenue on the overwater flight. The fact this flight stays says something too – that it is profitable, network connections and one world connectivity be damned.
    Airlines have to do what’s right for them. If all the alliance connectivity doesn’t pay the bills then it’s the responsible decision to not serve it.
    Meanwhile, I think AA’s entrance into MIAFRA will meet the same failure it did last time in the 1990s when they flew it. The majority of the people on these routes are from point of sale Europe. AA has no strength there. All the premium traffic will continue on LH, and AA Will get the the cheap seat/ value passengers. Not a recipe for success. And I don’t think Berlin would be any better. Just look at AA’s experience on DUS – not good – can’t even make it a year round route.

  11. Fort Myers= Wealthy retirees who dont want to enjoy the weather and dont have to pay many taxes to the German government.

    I never understood the MIA-TXL. Granted it is a gateway, but the situation with Russia has led to a climate of recession in Germany. I love Air Berlin in Germany, LH and their stupid 8kg carry on policy. YEs they enforce it.

    Now (LH) they are stiking cause pilots want less hours and to retire at 55! Air Berlin is my favorite over there.

  12. @ KR — If the flight shows as canceled in your record then I’d probably call them. You can expect they’ll either rebook you on the other airberlin flight to Dusseldorf, or otherwise an American option as far as Europe.

  13. Why not flying just ones or twice a week Berlin-Miami …those flights should be loaded to the top, same thing with the other routes to Florida. Isn’t that what they want; filling up the planes? Probably need more flights in the school holiday time….. People from Berlin and area don’t want to stop anywhere to get to the sunshine state Florida (no matter if those older people living in Berlin or the families with young kids !
    Including myself, I would take any carrier who takes me directly from Berlin to Florida no matter if it is Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa or Orlando; it’s Air Berlin not Air Duesseldorf! Rename it if you make the main Airport Duesseldorf; btw. no one wants to visit the Duesseldorf area over Berlin (the capital with all the historical buildings, the history and much more) for a visit from outside Germany! Remember: Berlin ist eine Reise wert!”

  14. I forgot, please let me know people out there, when you found out about a direct flight from Berlin to any Florida destination! Thanks in advance! Because the only one was Air Berlin with direct service from TXL to MIA. If they don’t make Berlin (the capital of Germany, the biggest city, the city with the biggest history, the city what never sleeps) as there HUB for international flights; they shouldn’t have BERLIN in their name!!!!!!!

  15. Last April 20th, 2015. I had ticket on Air Berlin flight 7001 to Dusseldorf. with a departure time of 4 p.m. I had a connection with Air Berlin 8712 to Rome, Italy. Due to technical malfunction of the aircraft in Miami the flight was interrupted for several hours. The passengers were all this time inside the plane until the captain announced we had to take our luggage and go back to the terminal. So we did. Several hours later Air Berlin informed the passengers to board the plane again with their carry on. To the stressing surprise that hours later we have to go back to the terminal because, according to the captain, there were computers “Issues”.
    Air Berlin decided to sent passengers to hotels around Miami without any information as to when will the next flight will be. All this time we had no water or any thing to eat. Just the hotel. I arrived to my assigned hotel after 11:30 p.m.
    So I already lost a day on my 5 days stay in Rome.
    After American Airlines intervened, I was given an AA flight to London, via Chicago with Rome as my destination. What a trip !!!!!! Air Berlin counter at Miami International was a chaotic scene, no very good for reputation and publicity.
    I arrived to Rome more than a day and a half later than my Air Berlin scheduled flights.
    This delay cost me and many others, meals at Chicago and London Airport and above all, I had to pay for my first night hotel in Rome due their non refundable policy.
    I need to obtain from Air Berlin , statements verifying the cause and duration of this annoying interruption. I would like Air Berlin to pay for my first night hotel in Rome and provided me with AA miles or a voucher valid for a ticket to Europe. By the way, this was my first experience with Air Berlin. Not very pleasant.

  16. Ft. Myers’s busiest airline is a OneWorld member. (It doesn’t have a livery that says so) JetBlue partners with former member Aer Lingus, Japan Airlines, Qatar, and Hawaiian. (Also with Emirates and South African)

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