Owing to a keen and unfortunate ability of mine, known as bad luck, I purchased a flight from Budapest to San Francisco on Air Berlin days before they declared bankruptcy. Unable to change or refund my flight I settled in for what might turn out to be an unfortunate trip, though assurances from the German government and Lufthansa that operations would continue lifted my hopes.
The day of my flights arrived and all looked well. Both flights were listed as on-time. Check-in in Budapest was uneventful and my flight left on time. The only issue was a girl that must have partied too hard or been drugged passing out shortly after take off. Sad for her but did not have an effect on the flight.
Tegal airport was a different story. This terrible airport is an awful place on the best of days, but this day it exceeded itself. The terminal was a mess of stranded travelers. Feeling sorry for these poor souls I saw my flight to San Francisco was good I got a pretzel and beer and waited to escape Tegal. Come boarding time we were informed that our flight was delayed twenty minutes without a reason given. No need to worry. Delays are understandable given the circumstances the airline is under. Twenty minutes later we are told the flight is canceled and to get on a bus to take us to baggage claim. Again no reason or apology is forthcoming. Rumor on the bus was that crews were taking sick days so the airline could not fly the planes. Understanable reaction by people about to lose their jobs but quite annoying to people trying to get home or go on vacation.
Figuring that I would be transfered to a Lufthansa flight quickly I was not worried too much, but oh how I should have worried. Being one of the last to get my luggage I was greeted by all 300 passengers in the rebooking queue in front of me. I would stand here, with many bathroom breaks, for six hours. Air Berlin dumped all of us on three airport staff to rebook over 300 people. Happy and positive when it came my turn I rebooked on Lufthansa through Frankfurt the next day. When I asked for a hotel she almost laughed at me and said Air Berlin will not pay for anything but I could write to them complaining. I thought this was against international law as this cancellation was not an “act of god” but was the airlines fault. I guess they didn’t care since they didn’t really exist anymore. So I paid out of pocket for hotel and food and went to sleep. The next day I flew on beautiful Lufthansa without a hitch, recognizing many people from the day before.
I wrote to Air Berlin asking them to pay for my hotel and food and also to change my return flight to Lufthansa since they were unreliable. Two months later and I have yet to hear a peep from them. Though I was nervous waiting at the gate for my return flights both went off without so much as a delay. I guess some of the crews still enjoyed flying.
I will miss Air Berlin a little. I had enjoyed their planes and crews up until they declared bankrupcy. They had severe headwinds in the forms of a terrible airport hub and Lufthansa as competition, but they did well. Now that they are gone I hope Berlin will tear Tegal down and replace it. Then perhaps Air Berlin can rise from the grave and try again.
Farewell Air Berlin. You join Malev in airlines that I have liked and lost during my time.