NEW YORK - It's
been feast or famine when it comes to nonstop flights to Berlin.
capital - once served by a plethora of major U.S. carriers, has
gone without any nonstop service to or from the U.S. since
Lufthansa axed its Berlin-Washington
flights after 9/11.
since had to change planes at Frankfurt or Munich, a strange state
of affairs for a European city with 3.4 million people, especially
one that's also the political and cultural - if not yet the
business - capital of a major U.S. ally.
But all that's
set to change next year, when the city goes from zero to two U.S.
nonstops per day, with Delta and Continental each launching daily
service to and from Berlin's Tegel Airport.
Delta will begin
flying from New York's Kennedy Airport on May 2, while Continental
starts service from Newark on July 1.
officials and travel industry players are hailing the new flights
as a long-awaited boon to Berlin's economy and tourism
"We are delighted
to have increased air service to ... our nation's capital," said
Michaela Klare, regional manager of the Americas at the German
National Tourist Office (GNTO) in New York. "There is no doubt
these flights will have a positive impact on tourism to Germany and
to Berlin, specifically."
service to an increasingly popular European capital like Berlin
might appear to be a no-brainer, the route had proven to be
unattractive and uneconomical.
Bjorn Bieneck, managing director at Berlin Tourism Marketing in
Fredericksburg, Va., U.S. airlines that launched nonstops after the
fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 soon abandoned the
"All gave the
same reasons for quitting," he said. "First, although coach-class
tourist traffic was fine, first-class and business passengers were
It's often said
in airline circles that the front-cabin passengers, often business
travelers who pay premium fares, subsidize cheaper coach seats and
reason, said Bieneck, is that Berlin lacks a large, international
decision has been made to rebuild Schoenefeld - one of three
existing airports - into the Berlin Brandenburg Airport, a larger hub facility expected to open by
New hub or not,
Delta and Continental said they've detected more interest in
"We've had our
eye on Berlin forever. It was never a question of if, but when,"
said Buddy Ansliger, managing director of planning at Continental.
"We kept watching developments in Berlin and found government
offices and businesses are increasingly moving to the metropolitan
Delta said it
tracked a jump in bookings from the U.S. via Air France code-share
flights that connect through Paris.
"We felt this
moment would come for years, and from our research, 2005 looks like
the best moment to enter the Berlin market," said Jennifer Young,
director of international network analysis at Delta.
Marketing has detected a higher interest in Berlin, too. The
organization said 2004 leisure arrivals from the U.S. are up 22%
over last year.
While Delta will
fly 767-300 planes to Berlin, Continental - mindful of still-soft
business traffic on the route - will use smaller 757s, with just 16
be in a better position to exploit the route, as Newark is a major
feeder hub, but Young said Delta will launch Berlin flights from
New York - instead of Atlanta - in an expansion of transatlantic
operations at Kennedy Airport.
operators and suppliers in the U.S. are pleased. Ron Santangelo,
president of Peter Deilmann Cruises in Alexandria, Va., said the
nonstops are "long overdue."
"If fares are
competitive to routes via Frankfurt, I'm sure they will have a leg
up," Santangelo said.
president of ITS Tours in College Station, Texas, said that he now
will "rethink" all of his 2005 programs.
Wilson-Schmitte, an agent with Nonstop Travel in Torrance, Calif.,
said she wants to see nonstops from Los Angeles. "If Lufthansa flew
nonstop to Berlin from L.A., we could sell the heck out of it," she
wondered if Lufthansa will meet the competitive challenge set forth
by Continental and Delta.
spokeswoman in New York, however, said no Berlin nonstops are
planned.To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send
e-mail to[email protected].