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Old May 8, 17, 9:22 pm   #1
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Any tips for an AB transatlantic newbie?

I'm flying AB transatlantic for the first time: TXL-JFK in economy with some family members. I'm not expecting much. I know they're generally a "no frills" airline (I've flown them within Europe), and things aren't so good financially at the company. Their reputation is also less than stellar. But the trip was cheap on Avios miles, so I booked it.

Any "idiosyncrasies" I should know about this service? Like when I called their rez line a while ago to ask about seat assignments, they told me there are no free assignments. If that's the case, do I get to pick my seats when the check in window opens? And when is that? The website says 30 hours, but my guess is that it's actually 24-hours for transatlantic.

What about baggage? I usually just do carry-on, but I'm likely to have some wine with me that I'll want to check. I seem to get a free checked bag. Anything weird/annoying about their counters at TXL?

And what about carry-on? The website says you're limited to 8 kg, and your personal item has to be small. Is any of that actually enforced (my rollerboard will probably be close to 8 kg), or do the typical USA carry-on rules actually govern?

Priority Pass says there's a lounge landside at Terminal A: the Berlin Airportclub Lounge. Is this reasonably convenient to AB's operation? Is the food and drink decent? And is the landside location "a problem": eg, unpredictability of getting through customs and security?

What about on-board service? I've read that they have OK-but-not-great individual entertainment screens, and somewhat tight economy class seating. Is it worse than a typical USA airline? And what about the food? It's still complimentary, right? And is there enough of it for a 9 hour flight? Any need to bring any food with us? Do they follow the traditional transatlantic practice of giving you a meal and, later, a snack?

Thanks for the help!
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Old May 9, 17, 11:10 am   #2
  
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JFK vs ORD

(deleted; a mistake post)
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Old May 10, 17, 7:10 pm   #3
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Bump. Nobody's flown AB transatlantic? I would think the Avios price (20K to NYC, even in summer) would have gotten somebody to fly!
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Old May 11, 17, 1:56 am   #4
  
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All right, I haven't crossed the Atlantic with them and it's been a few years since my last long-haul on AB, but here's what I can answer:

AB has followed other airlines in adopting the low-frills model on short-haul, but they remain a full-service airline on long-haul. The service in Y is usually okay: nothing fancy, but not worse than what you'd get on a US-based airline. You do get complimentary food and drinks and you can check a bag for free. I can imagine that their check-in counters can get a bit crowded before a transatlantic, but they're not deliberately annoying.

You should keep in mind that they've recently changed their ground handling company at TXL which still leads to routine delays of more than an hour. TXL is not a fun airport to wait at.

I haven't been to the Airportclub lounge, nor have I read great things about it. Apparently it very narrowly beats waiting in the terminal building – so if you get in for free you may as well, but I doubt it's worth paying for.

The lounges in Terminal A have to be landside because of the unique layout of the terminal and they usually work well for departures from that terminal. As your flight will almost certainly leave from Terminal C however, I'd encourage you to wait there. The airport has recently opened its first airside lounge there (the Weltbürger-Lounge) and you can purchase access for €36 (unless you have Sapphire/Emerald status, in which case it's free for you and a guest). This will be worth considering if you have a longer wait as it's a huge improvement over the terminal building (also affectionately called the "garden shed").

TXL is normally an efficient airport to depart from, but your entertainment options will be limited, so there's no need to arrive very early. Spend your time in the city instead and show up 90–120 minutes before departure.
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Old May 11, 17, 2:21 pm   #5
  
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I flew JFK-TXL-WAW roundtrip. The JFK-TXL segment and vv were fine. Dont remember anything about the food, besides that it was offered for free. They didn't check my carryon bags either way. One thing of note was boarding the flight to JFK was strange. It left from what seemed like a satellite terminal, not the larger one I flew into (don't know if this is because of customs or..) and there was no bridge. We just walked onto the tarmac and then up the steps. The plane was parked in the corner, so it was a bit far without a bus provided.
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Old May 11, 17, 7:01 pm   #6
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Thanks for the tips. I've only ever been to TXL once, and it was an arriving flight. I do remember the airport being a little odd.

I remember having to take a bus from the airport, and I assume I'll be taking a bus TO the airport this time. Once I get off, I assume things are pretty obvious? I'm not really sure how to use the Priority Pass Airportclub lounge as it's before security. Is it reasonably close to the AB check-in desks, or not so much? I'm currently thinking of checking a bag (and might be forced to, if the US implements a "cabin laptop ban") and without status (I'm AA Gold, I assume that's useless) I assume the check-in wait could be long. Once that's accomplished, does the terminal have a central security check, or are there multiple check stations due to the unusual terminal design?

Once I get to the gate, it does seem like everything runs pretty normally, and the in-flight services seem pretty standard for transatlantic coach.
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Old May 12, 17, 2:42 am   #7
  
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AA Gold/oneworld Ruby isn't entirely useless, it'll let you (and everyone on your booking) use the Business Class/Priority check-in counters.

Yes, things are fairly obvious once you get off the bus. The bus drops you off the A terminal. Look at the departure screens to find out what terminal your flight is leaving from.

If it's Terminal C, walk over there to check any bags, then come back for the lounge if you want. Leave early enough to clear security and passport control, which are indeed centralised.

If it's Terminal A (unlikely), check-in, security and passport control will be at the gate, and I think the only gate capable of handling widebodies is the one near the entrance.
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Old May 12, 17, 8:48 am   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waffle View Post
AA Gold/oneworld Ruby isn't entirely useless, it'll let you (and everyone on your booking) use the Business Class/Priority check-in counters.

Yes, things are fairly obvious once you get off the bus. The bus drops you off the A terminal. Look at the departure screens to find out what terminal your flight is leaving from.

If it's Terminal C, walk over there to check any bags, then come back for the lounge if you want. Leave early enough to clear security and passport control, which are indeed centralised.

If it's Terminal A (unlikely), check-in, security and passport control will be at the gate, and I think the only gate capable of handling widebodies is the one near the entrance.
Thanks! Ah, yes, no priority boarding with Gold, but priority check-in. That will certainly help if we have bags to check. I think I've got a plan now.
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