The incredible unlikelihood of an Air Berlin A320 to North America this summer

An Air Berlin A320 taking off; image courtesy of Air Berlin Group

In one of the more bizarre route update filings I’ve ever seen Air Berlin added a number of new flights between its Berlin hub and North America for the Summer 2017 season. Adding more frequencies isn’t particularly surprising (though one must wonder given the overcapacity in the TATL market and the uncertain future the company faces) but the way these were filed is amazing. The flights are currently scheduled to operate on the company’s A320s.

Yes, Air Berlin filed plans to operate A320s between Berlin and both New York and Miami. No, those flights will almost certainly not really happen.
Yes, Air Berlin filed plans to operate A320s between Berlin and both New York and Miami. No, those flights will almost certainly not really happen.

The problem with that filing is not that it would be a single-aisle aircraft flying across the Atlantic; many airlines are doing that these days. The problem is that this plane simply cannot make the trip. The A320 operates with a maximum range of 3,300 nautical miles with 150 seats on board. Air Berlin carries 178 passengers on its A320s, limiting the range further. I’m also pretty sure that planes are not ETOPS rated so even if they could fly that far the specific version Air Berlin has wouldn’t be viable for such. The flight distance from Berlin to JFK is near 3,500 nautical miles and Miami is another 900nm further. The plane simply cannot operate these routes, even with sharklets that would extend the range a bit.

The theoretical new routes and range of a typical A320
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

So, yes, Air Berlin has the A320 filed for long-haul service this coming summer. But I fully expect that the filing will be adjusted in the next couple days. Of course, if they do try to fly the A320 on these routes there would have to be so many blocked seats that odds of lie-flat coach would be incredibly high. And odds of profitability would be spectacularly low.

Header image: An Air Berlin A320 taking off; image courtesy of Air Berlin Group

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. I read it and your argument makes sense. Although, I wonder if they swap planes, will they go for a WOW approach or stay a regular airline across the pond.

    2. There’s nothing that would make that work right now. The A321LR will likely be sufficient for the JFK option but even that would be assuming a config that is not high density and also only viable in summer headwinds.

    1. And over the weekend when UA’s systems are updating you’ll occasionally see a DASH8 listed on the website operating a TATL flight, but that’s just internal stuff, not an OAG/ATPCO filing.

      Mostly just wonder if it’ll be fixed on Saturday or if we have to wait until next week to see it change.

  1. Full biz or the play won’t make it. The range is largely limited if there are a lot of passengers on board. With 3 class layout, it’s simply not possible at all.

  2. I am scheduled to fly Air Berlin from SF to Berlin in July on an A330. Still wondering if Air Berlin is going to make it that long and where exactly are the corners being cut. I’m hoping everything is being inspected on a regular basis, etc., with regard to safety. Kind of wish I would have known about all this restructuring when I made the reservation. Also, it looks like they are veering toward being a no frills kind of airline and I didn’t pay for that, so it seems I’m due a bit of a refund if that is the case!

  3. They could add a fueling stop like Transavia HV and arkefly OR are doing on AMS-DXB and AMS-DWC routes. Depending on the load and wind some flights do not need fueling stop on the inbound flights

    1. Even eastbound would be very unlikely to work this way, particularly flying over ocean rather than land for most of the trip. Also, it really isn’t going to happen.

Comments are closed.