Mess After Mess. Flying airberlin to Salzburg

I’ve got a ton of posts to crank out on our family vacation to Sicily and Salzburg.  I’m hoping to get my butt in gear.  Here’s a quick peek at what I expect to cover:

There are a number of airlines that fly connecting itineraries from Catania to Salzburg, though nothing really in the way of nonstop flights.  We chose a mid-morning airberlin flight that connected in Düsseldorf.  This was my first time flying airberlin.  I tried a few things just to get a sense for how the airline functions.  We pre-purchased some meals for the flight and also bought an empty middle seat through their auction process.

The meals cost about 10 Euro a piece and we were ultimately approved for a 35 Euro charge for their “Extra Seat” option.

Delayed From The Start

The inbound aircraft was delayed in arriving.  I didn’t note whether it was an Airbus 319 or 320.  Once it got there, they announced they couldn’t fuel the plane and load bags at the same time due to regulations.  We didn’t have a terribly long connection in Düsseldorf, and it was already in jeopardy even before we boarded.  The engine had an exterior panel replaced that wasn’t logoed.  Not really a safety issue, per se.  Just something I don’t see a ton of.

The legroom in coach really wasn’t all that bad, though I don’t have the longest legs in the world.  We didn’t buy preferred seats but survived just fine in plain old coach.

Losing The Auction We Won

We “won” the auction for an empty middle seat, but the staff in Catania didn’t really have any understanding of how it worked.  Neither did we, so we ended up boarding and just taking the aisle and window seat on the boarding passes.  My wife and son left the middle seat open, but that didn’t last long.  Shortly thereafter, a man boarded the flight with a boarding pass for the middle seat we had purchased.  He didn’t speak English and the crew told me that the flight was full and our empty middle seat had been revoked.

I pushed back on this quite a bit.  After all, we had already paid for the seat.  Plus, my son didn’t want a strange person he’d never met next to him, he wanted his mother.  It was a bit of an insult to have my wife move to a middle seat when we were expecting to have some extra space.  Talk about a downgrade!

I offered to take the middle seat and have my wife sit with our daughter.  In the end, she moved to the middle and away we went.  The windows were a bit dirty but there were still a few sights to see on take-off.

Our meals were as ordered.  The quality of the food was about what I’d expected.  It was an edible hot meal.  I certainly like the concept of not having to track down meals for our kids in the airport prior to boarding.  I just wish the food quality was better.  The kids picked a bit at theirs.  I ended up eating most of mine just out of hunger.

Running In Dusseldorf

We landed late in Dusseldorf and had to take a bus to the terminal.  I set off at a dead sprint to try to get to our gate and have them hold it open.  Thankfully, our connecting gate was only a couple hundred feet away.  We did make our flight, but I was pretty sure our bags wouldn’t.

Our onward flight from Dusseldorf to Salzburg was on a Q400.  The flight is only about an hour, so no issues there.  We even got a little snack of sorts and drink service, which pales in comparison to United’s coach service on a 2-hour flight from their hub in Chicago.

Upon landing, we confirmed that our bags had not made the flight.  It would be almost 2 days before we would see the bags again.  We had very little success getting someone from airberlin on the phone.  We got an initial promise of 50 Euro each to buy clothes.  A few subsequent attempts to get reimbursed went unanswered.  After spending a bit of time researching other customers with claims, it was pretty evident this was par for the course.

The Final Two Pennies

Our experience on airberlin was pretty darn subpar.  Normally, I wouldn’t rate an airline based on one experience.  But, I consistently hear stories about how bad they are at managing an airline.  I though it was a good idea to auction the opportunity for a bit more space.  Just too bad it worked out so poorly.

The delayed baggage is pretty customary.  You fly enough (and take the risk of checking a bag) and that’s bound to happen.  I’m sure I could have tried harder to get compensated, but they won that fight.  My desire to be compensated was ultimately outweighed by the lack of any response from airberlin.  I’m sure there are plenty of folks reading this that would have kept fighting.  Ultimately, I decided I wasn’t willing to invest more time and gave up.

Thank goodness we had an awesome time in Salzburg.  More to come!

The post Mess After Mess.  Flying airberlin to Salzburg was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Why not do a chargeback on your credit card? They did not provide two services that you paid for – empty middle seat (and my reading comprehension skills are likely deficient but I didn’t dee where you say they refunded that) and timely delivery of your bags. At the very least, you would cost them time=dollars dealing with the chargeback.

  2. If any portion of the trip was charged to Citi Prestige you could have gotten cash back for purchase of clothes, etc……as it was more than three hours late.

  3. Did you charge the Air Berlin tickets to a credit card that offered coverage for delayed baggage? Wondering if you might have had something available to cover incidental purchases/clothing that you didn’t think of at the time.

  4. You can usually check at the gate to see if your bags have been loaded onto the aircraft. Some airlines even have someone halfway down the gangway to the plane with a computer who can also tell you if your bags are on board.

  5. This blog post is a perfect advertisement for one of the credit cards that you promote on occasion: for instance, the Chase reserve, allows $100 per day per person for delayed baggage. There was four of you and the baggage was delayed two days, so you were entitled to $800 worth of spend in a fashion rich country.

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