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.
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.
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